A Very Eventful Week!

Monday started off on a sad note… Hosun came up to me and told me that Sunghee will not be coming in today and is taking the rest of the week off. She told me Sunghee had a miscarriage. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. I feel so bad for her. 😦

Hosun told me that I would then have to teach the 6th graders by myself all week. I was so excited! I’m glad I have the chance to teach them by myself, though I am really sad as to why I got this opportunity. Because I was teaching by myself and can’t speak Korean, the homeroom teachers came to class with their students to handle any discipline problems. Ever since Sunghee took over for Eunmi, the 6th graders have turned into little devils, but have their homeroom teacher stay in the room and they are angels! It was great! I did the lesson with them and had extra time, so I played the “Who’s Stronger?” PowerPoint game with them. Not all my classes were able to play it last week, so it was nice to fall back on for 4 of my 6 classes on Monday. The last class of the day had already played it, so I got an idea off the top of my head (or maybe the side of my head, not quite sure) and I had the kids get out some white markers boards. I would say a word and the group would have to spell it and hold up their board. The fastest teams wins. Then the next round, I would say a word and they had to make a sentence using that word. The last round, I would say a sentence and they would have to draw the picture for the sentence. Their favorite sentences were “Brooke is taller than a giraffe” or “Brooke is shorter than a frog.” I was shocked to see how well this game went!!

On Tuesday, Kyoungnam helped with discipline in my class so the homeroom teachers could have some time to work. I played the marker board game with 3 of the classes except one… The 6-6 class were being little brats, not wanting to do anything, and had quite the attitudes. (Not all of them of course.) So I told them “No game!” and doubled their homework. I heard a lot of complaining and whining and then Kyoungnam got up at the front of the class and gave them a lecture. I have no idea what she said, but when she was done all the kids were saying, “Sorry, Teacher. We’re so sorry. We’re very, very sorry.” Wow. It is sooo nice having a co-teacher to back me up!! I haven’t had this since Eunmi left. I felt light as a feather, I was so happy! Thank you Kyoungnam!!

In the 5th grade, we are doing the chapter “She has long, straight hair.” I just had to teach the review part in the book ,but I ended up having extra time. I drew some pretty awesome characters on the board that the kids thought were hilarious! These are some of the sentences they came up with… ‘Albert is fat.’ ‘Albert has curly hair.’ ‘Albert has big ears.’ ‘Albert has big, dark eyes.’ ‘Sarah has a big nose.’ ‘Sarah is thin.’ ‘Sarah has long, straight hair.’ ‘Sarah is tall.’

Meet Albert and Sarah!

After school class with the 1st and 2nd graders is always fun. This week they were being so cute. They LOVED playing with my hair (more like petting my hair) and they kept playing with my hands. Once they saw one kid doing this, they all had to do it. I don’t mind at all, but my after school co-teacher gets a kick out of it! (I’ve actually been told by a lot of people here that my hair is incredibly soft, along with my hands… Great genes! Thanks Mama & Dad!!)

Thursday morning started off with a nice shower… Then I got on the bus. I was taking a nap on the bus to school and then some guy sat next to me. He seemed like a big guy because his legs were right against mine. When I opened my eyes, I saw that he wasn’t very big, but wasn’t trying to stay on his side of the seat at all. I kept scooting over up against the window and kept trying to nap. He reeked of cigarettes. He kept trying to talk to me… “Hello! My name is…” I’m thinking “That’s great, but I don’t care.” Nevermind the fact that I’m TRYING to sleep here. His legs were constantly against mine and his shoulders were always up against my arm, nevermind that I’m squished up against the window trying not to touch him. Then he wakes me up again to tell me “I am Korean.” Really?! I couldn’t tell. Later, he nudges (a little too rough)  me awake at a bus stop and says a bunch of things in Korean. I kept shaking my head and saying “No.” When I was about 3 minutes away from my bus stop, he tried holding my hand. What the hell?!?! I pull it away and say “No.” He thought this was funny. Then when we get to my bus stop, he doesn’t get up to let me out of the seat so I have to squeeze past him. As I was doing this, he puts his hands on my waist to “help” me. I tried to hit his hands away but my bags were in my hands, so I just got out of the seat as fast as I could. He also thought this was funny. I instantly started crying when I got off the bus. I felt so violated and disrespected and so unsafe in a place that I call home and on a bus that I have to take to school every day. I have never felt unsafe or scared since being in Korea until this moment in broad daylight on a bus filled with people… A place where I never expected to develop this feeling.

After school that day, I met with some lovely ladies, Sarah, Karima, Becca, & Jordan, and we went out for dessert. We talked about a lot of stuff like our students, other things going on, and the incident on the bus this morning. Talking with them about it and about sexual harassment in general made me feel better. After that, my friend Terry came down from Jejusi and he, Karima, and I went out for dinner (sliced, marinated beef… sooo good!) and then to a DVD Bang. A DVD Bang is a place where you can go to rent a room and watch any movie of your choice (well the ones they have in stock anyways, which was a lot). We went with Moneyball. I fell asleep halfway through, but the parts I did see makes me want to watch it again and actually stay up for the whole thing! This evening definitely put me in higher spirits!

The next morning I talked with some of my co-teachers about what happened the morning before. I couldn’t talk about it yesterday because I always felt like crying when it got brought up. We talked about things I can do and what to do or say if anything like this ever happens again. From now on, I’ll be sitting in the aisle seat and only moving over for women or kids. And if a man is bothering me, just keep saying “Hajima!” (Don’t do that!) and it’ll probably embarrass him enough to stop or at least get others around me to yell at him. I’m just hoping it never comes to the point ever again!

My 3rd grade classes went pretty good this week. Haesu, my favorite, little, chunky 3-1 student, was upset when she came to class. Before class started, I asked her what was wrong and she pointed to a boy in the front of the class and said “Fight” as she was gesturing with her hands talking. I’m guessing they had an argument then… As Haesu was walking to her seat, I saw the boy holding up both middle fingers at her with this big “I hate you” look on his face. Then one boy comes up pointing at the boy with his middle fingers up and yelling, “Brooke! F*** you! (giggles) F*** you!” (He had to tell me in case I wasn’t aware what it meant.) I kept telling him “No, bad word.” He just giggled and walked back to his seat, saying to himself, “Hehe, f*** you. Hehehe.” Oh, the life of a teacher in Korea… Gotta love it!

Friday night, there was the Trick or Treat Book Concert at Maybe Cafe to help raise money for the YWCA to buy some English books for their library. It was fun! I dressed up as a Korean 3rd grader. (Can you guess where I got the inspiration?) Lots of singers and Harris (my hip hop teacher) and his friend danced to a Michael Jackson song in the street. It was awesome! Then there was this truck trying to get through and Harris’s friend was dancing in front of the truck blocking his way. He wasn’t too happy. They were both wearing these really creepy masks!

Korean 3rd grader… Kyopta! (Cute!)

Karima strumming away!

Sarah and I… Two lovely ladies!

Seopseom

Saturday morning, I headed out to do the Udo Olle. Udo is an island off the east coast of Jeju. So I took the hour and a half bus ride to the ferry terminal. I was walking to the ferry terminal and was about 100 yards away when it suddenly started down pouring! Just my luck. So I walked back to the bus stop and headed back to Seogwipo. 3 hours on a bus for nothing! So instead, I headed down to the harbor when I got back to Seogwipo and took the walking bridge over to a little island called Seopseom and hiked around that.

The walking bridge… It is all lit up at night and so beautiful!

Chillin on the Rocks!

Kind of ironic that this is where everyone crawls through the fence…

Udo Olle 1-1

The ferry heading back to Jeju from Udo!

I tried to do Udo Olle again on Sunday morning… Success! It was a beautiful day! I took the 9:00 am ferry and was able to start the Olle at 9:20 am. I had to walk through a lot of fields on the Olle, which turned out to be cow pie minefields. I stopped at a little cafe for a burger for lunch. There were pictures of Marilyn Monroe everywhere!

A lovely burger and a lovely view!

The Marilyn Cafe…?

I also stopped at the Pirate Cafe. When I was on Udo this spring with some friends, we stopped here for some coffee. When you come to Pirate Cafe, they give you this little foam rectangle that you can write and draw on and then hang it somewhere in the entrance coming up to the cafe. I thought I’d stop in to find the one we made and I found it! It wasn’t easy, as there were soooo many more tiles hung up now compared to when we were here last.

Found it!

It wasn’t easy to find though…

I climbed Udobong… Lots of work! But the view from the top… Wow! Breathtakingly beautiful! I finished the 15.9 km Olle course around 1:20 pm!

Udobong!

Exhausted, but happy after climbing Udobong!

More pictures from Olle 1-1…

Thanks for the minefield, buddy!

Welcome to Beautiful Udo!

Udo is known for its peanuts!

Hungry anyone?

Cairn City! We built this city on rocks and stones!

A great way to end the week!

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Happy Birthday Daejeong Elementary!!!

Ended up not having many classes this week! Mostly because of the school’s birthday celebrations. On Monday right before 1st period, Sunghee comes up to me and tells me she’s going home sick… No 6th grade classes on Monday! Tuesday, we only had 20 minute classes with 5 of our six 6th grade classes. For Wednesday, all the grades went on a field trip, each grade someplace different. Thursday was the only day where things went normal… four 4th grade classes and two 6th grade classes. Then Friday, we had no school for our school’s birthday! I could get used to this!

On Wednesday, Kyoungnam’s husband came to pick us up in his spaceship of a van and treated all of us English teachers to lunch! (Kyoungnam isn’t actually an English teacher and doesn’t even speak much English at all, but her desk is in the English teachers’ office. I wish I either spoke more Korean or she spoke more English because I love her! She is so sweet and spunky and just has the warmest energy about her! You can’t help but feel good around her, language barrier or not!) He took us to this restaurant right on the coast and we were having spicy fish and all the spicy Korean side dishes… I’m not a huge fan of fish yet, so I wasn’t jumping for joy when they told me what we were having. To my surprise, I liked it. Not enough to order it voluntarily, but enough that if it was put in front of me again, I wouldn’t think twice about digging in. The spaceship van wasn’t the smoothest ride. I got a slight headache and stomachache on the way back.

I’m getting MUCH better at picking the meat off the bones!! Before, it would make me lose my appetite when I bit into a fish bone. Yuck!

With the 6th graders, we are on the chapter called “I’m faster than you.” So I made up a PowerPoint of the students pictures and an animal. Then groups would have to make up a sentence comparing the two pictures. They loved it! Except the kids whose pictures I used… They were a little shy. Sorry!

“Who’s Stronger?” Game!

In hip hop class, we finally finished the choreography for Usher’s song “Dive.” We had about 5 minutes at the end of class to record before we were going to get kicked out… Our dance instructor hasn’t posted the videos yet, but when he does I’ll post them on here! 🙂

Olle 11

A view of Moseulbong, Hallasan, and Sanbangsan on Olle 11!!

For Friday, since there was no school, I took off on an Olle! I started Olle 11 at 8:15 am, which starts in Daejeong (the town I work in). It was lovely! And the weather couldn’t have been better! I climbed to the top of Moseulbong, an oreum behind the boys’ high school in town, and there were TONS of grave sites up there! One whole hillside was covered with them. I find this kind of fascinating, because cemeteries are not common here at all! Usually you just see random grave sites in fields, on hills, in the woods, etc. Seeing them in big clusters like this and organized in rows is quite rare.

In Korean culture, it is important to families that their loved ones who have passed have a great view in the afterlife.

At one point, I was walking by a little farm and the smells instantly put me in a state of nostalgia! It took me back to the days of living out in the country in New London and my nostrils being filled with the (apparently) unforgettable smell of cow manure being spread over the fields. As I was walking through the forest, I got to thinking about my family back home and wondering if any of them would like to live here. I was thinking about my papa and thinking that he would love the fishing opportunities here. But then maybe not because there isn’t much for hunting on the island. Then I got to thinking that I’ve never seen any wild animals on my Olle adventures, with the exception of birds. Right as this thought was crossing my mind, I was walking through an opening in a stone wall along the path. Right on the other side of the stone wall was a deer!! I didn’t get to look for long, but I think seeing me scared him enough to make him jump about 5 feet in the air! He immediately ran the other way as fast as he could! How ironic! Well I can’t say I haven’t seen any wild animals on my Olle hikes anymore. I finished the 18 km Olle course at 12:15 pm… A 4 hour hike that the Olle pamphlet said would take 6-7 hours! Yeah!!

I was hiking up Moseulbong, when I turned around and saw this!

Loved walking through this forest! This forest path was actually closed until the lady who makes the Olle trails fought to have it reopened to the public!

A little mushroom farm!

This weekend I helped out Halla Middle School at the Jeju Book Festival. A friend of mine is the teacher there, but wasn’t able to help because she had plans. So I volunteered to help out! (The extra money paid for my airfare to Seoul last weekend!) It was actually a lot of fun. I read story books every couple hours to different groups of kids. If the group of kids was very young, then one of the middle school students would translate as I read. And being the only foreigner at the festival, I was somewhat of a celebrity! Kids wanted their picture with me, I was interviewed for the news on Saturday, I was interviewed for the radio on Sunday, and a photographer from the newspaper was all up in my face and having me turn all the time to get the perfect picture. Our little tent was packed every couple hours when I was scheduled to read a book! During our free time in between books, me and the middle school girls would go off and do activities. We decorated a wooden bookmark, made beaded bookmarks/cell phone decorations, and designed our own T-shirts. Sadly, all the pictures the Halla Middle School teacher took were deleted by her toddler. 😦 I should have actually put my camera to use since I had it there. Boo.

This weekend was also the Jeju Furey volleyball tournament. I wasn’t playing because of the book festival, but I headed down there Saturday after the book festival for a night filled with dancing! So much fun!!

Sunday after the book festival, one of my co-teachers, Seunghee, and her girls came and suggested we order pizza and go hang out at her house. We ordered Pizza Hut and then walked over to her house. We just laid around on the couch, ate pizza, ate apples, peaches, and Asian pears, and chatted. A lovely way to end the weekend!

I’ll Meet You In Seoul!!

Well discipline in the 6th grade still isn’t that great and the kids continue to be a pretty rowdy bunch! Sunghee has started to yell at them when they’re being out of control, but it always seems to be too late. It seems that she waits to yell until she’s already really frustrated and she comes off as really angry, and from what I can tell, the students think she’s being unreasonable. So they get mad and frustrated with her, because they think they’re being screamed at for no apparent reason or that she’s over-reacting. Later on in the week, Junseok threw some kid’s notebook out the window. (Our English classroom is on the 2nd story.) I kind of yelled at him and told him to go get it, and he just kept saying things to me in Korean. A bunch of other students told Sunghee, and she didn’t say anything. So I went downstairs and outside to get it. When I came back, some girls told me that he threw one of their combs out the window. Sunghee said nothing. Then Junseok threw a book across the room. I had a feeling the kids behind him were giving him a hard time, so I’m assuming the book was meant for them, but it hit some other kid in the head who was sitting in the back of the classroom. Sunghee then says something to the kid that got hit, and from his reaction (the look of “Are you kidding me?!), I’m guessing she yelled at him. She also moved the two boys behind Junseok a foot farther back. I understand that the boys were the reason Junseok was acting that way, but it’s still not okay for him to act that way and be violent in the classroom. I really hope that there can be a meeting between Sunghee, Seunghee, and me soon so we can talk about what needs to change!

I had the 5th graders play a Minsweeper game with The Incredibles characters. Success!! They loved it! Later in the week, I edited the game to fit in with the 6th graders’ lesson and they loved it too! Some classes even asked to stay in class later so they could continue playing it. Yay! Minesweeper rocks!

Successful Game of Minesweeper!

For the 4th graders this week, I made up an activity for a rotating conversation. There are usually 4 students in each group, so each student was responsible for saying their assigned sentence. When they finished, they would pass their sentence to the person to their right and start over again. The kids were kind of crazy and I didn’t think it went as well as I expected. But then I heard my co-teacher Hosun telling Seunghee the next day how much fun it was… Hmm awesome! Another success!

For our Tuesday night dinner this week, Karima and I went out with a group of people to have some black pork. Before I came to Jeju, I was reading online that black pork is somewhat of a delicacy on the island. (And just to verify, the pigs are black, not their meat.) It was pretty tasty! Another delicious Korean BBQ meal!

I’m still taking the hip hop dance class, and we’re almost done with the choreography for Usher’s song “Dive.” It’s pretty fun!! And a nice way to exercise!

On Friday, the 6-3 class was AWESOME!! Not many behavior issues at all! All that had to be done was have their homeroom teacher sit in class. I think she maybe got up and whispered something to a few students, otherwise she just sat there reading her book. That’s all it took to have the kids be angels (well as angelic as possible for them) again! It was great!

After school on Friday, Seunghee drove me to the airport. I’m heading up to Seoul to hang out with Eunmi for the weekend!! She’s taking some classes in another city in Korea before she leaves to go teach in Hawaii for a few months. So she’s taking the train to Seoul and we’re meeting up after I land. I’m so excited to see her!! After we met up, we dropped my stuff off at her friend’s apartment where we’ll be staying for the weekend. Her friend went camping for the weekend and let us stay there while she’s gone. Then we headed to Itaewon for some drinks and chatted for a couple hours.

Namsan Seoul Tower

Saturday morning we headed off to Namsan Seoul Tower! We took a cable car to the top of the hill where the tower sits. We didn’t go up to the observation deck but just hung out at the base of the tower.

Up we go!

And here we are!

There were millions of love locks all over covering fences, benches, and basically anything that a lock can fit on. It was a little insane. (For those of you that are not in the know, a love lock is a pad lock that couples or friends write a little message on, lock it to something, and throw away the key so no one can unlock their love.) I’m very curious as to how many of these relationships have stood the test of time and never been unlocked. Eunmi and I slipped into this little restaurant overlooking the City of Seoul and shared a waffle for a late morning snack.

Love Lock Trees!

This probably used to be a fence…

Their love must be pretty big, because that is one GIANT lock!

Our view of the city while we snacked!

Insadong

Next we wanted to head to Insadong for some souvenir shopping. We took the cable car back down and then after that, had to take an elevator down to the sidewalk to get a cab. We were both really surprised when the elevator didn’t go straight down, but down diagonally at a 45° angle! Haha pretty cool!

We were both expecting Insadong to be this old Korean style marketplace street… It seemed pretty modern. Regardless, there were still many souvenirs, food, and clothes to keep us reaching for our wallets! We were able to abstain from buying food and clothes, but souvenirs got the best of us.

Deoksu-goong

Later on, we headed to Deoksu-goong. Deoksu-goong is one of the Five Grand Palaces built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. It was very peaceful and beautiful. We ended up getting there around sunset, so it wasn’t packed with people, which is always nice! One of the buildings housed an art project. It was a piece of artwork made up of many “chairs” coming out of the floor and it was made with this really shiny, reflective plastic material. Pretty awesome! So we went in there and sat around for a while, really taking in the beauty and comfortability! (For those of you that question my vocabulary on that last one, comfortability is listed on Urban Dictionary. And even if it wasn’t, you still understand what I mean. Haha)

Relaxing and…

…really appreciating…

…the artwork!!

And the ceiling!

One of the palace buildings!

More artwork… Imagine having this for a night light!

Before heading back to Eunmi’s friend’s place for the night, we stopped in Dunkin Donuts for some coffee and donuts!

After we got back, Eunmi said that her friend had prepared us some galbi that we could heat up for dinner. We already had dinner, but a little late night snack/meal every once in a while never hurt anybody. So we cooked that up and made some rice and watched movies for the rest of the night.

If you were ever wondering what the inside of a Korean’s fridge looks like…

Gyeongbok-goong

Sunday morning, we woke up late and then rushed to get ready! Eunmi wanted to get to Gyeongbok-goong in time for the English tour of the palace grounds. We got a taxi, but he dropped us off on the completely opposite side of the palace grounds where the English tour meets. So we walked as fast as we could, getting lost a few times, because all the men we asked apparently didn’t know how to give directions very well…  We made it in time though.

The front gate of the palace!

This place is huge! There were so many buildings. Gyeongbok-goong was the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty and the largest. I was shocked to hear that in the construction of all these buildings, not a single nail was used! They built the buildings using wood brackets.

The King’s official office… No nails!

Where special ceremonies were held… Surrounded by water!

Korean Kuties!

The Queen’s garden was pretty cool. There were 4 levels to it and each level was for the different seasons. So plants/flowers that bloom in spring were planted on one level, the ones that bloom in summer on another, etc.

Queen’s 4-tiered garden!

We also got to see the changing of the guards at the front gate of the palace, which was kinda neat. I also enjoyed their painted on/glued on facial hair.

Changing of the Palace Guards!

On our way out, I had my picture taken with a group of elementary boys. They were on a trip and doing a mission (scavenger hunt I’m assuming) and one of their missions was to get a picture with a waygook! (foreigner)

“Kimchi!” (“Cheese!”)

Reunited and it feels so good!

Genius King Sejong!! He wanted a writing system developed so that it made it easier for everybody to learn to read… Hence, hangul!!

Riverside Park

After lunch, we headed to Riverside Park along the Han River. We rode on some swan paddle boats that a friend of mine suggested. It was really nice! We got some exercise, while still kind of relaxing, and we got to chat and look at the beautiful scenery!

Having fun on the swan paddle boats!

Enjoying the scenery… Olympic Park in the background!

We also walked through the “Measuring Worm.” It’s an elevated walkway with a couple restaurants and coffee shops inside. There was also a photography exhibit of pictures from around the world. Pretty awesome! Finally, we took a little nap on the grass for about an hour before heading back to the train station so I could head back to the airport.

End of the Measuring Worm!

Nap time!

A great weekend with a great friend!!

More Visitors!!

After I landed in Jeju, I headed straight to school fresh off the plane! Because of the bus schedule, I ended up being 20 minutes late, so I missed my first class with the 6th graders. The third graders were awesome, as usual! We played one of their favorite games… Simon Says! Also, during my 3-1 class (my favorite little crazies!) we were doing a Listen & Repeat part of the lesson, and when I said “Don’t worry” one of the boys in the front yelled out “Be happy!” The little things that make my day…

Friday night I stayed in to relax and I got to Skype with 2 awesome people in my life, mi mama and Alyssa!!! 🙂

Saturday turned out to be a lazy day! I Skyped with my dad, Jessica, and Jamie in the morning!! Then I just organized pictures on my hard drive, watched some TV shows online, and walked down to Homeplus for some groceries… Lazy day activities! Later on, Karima came home after dropping Isaac off at the airport to head back to the States. We talked about our Chuseok… Chuseok is a HUGE deal in Korea! It’s their Thanksgiving, so we got a few days off of school, which allowed me the chance to head to the Philippines. And that I am so thankful for! Then she gave me a little surprise… A much early birthday present… Cheetoes!!! Oh my goodness! The cheese flavor… Mmmmm!!! Heavenly goodness! I was beaming with joy!! The little things that make my day…!!! 🙂

Crunchy, Cheesy, Heavenly Goodness!!

Olle 5

Sunday morning, I headed out to start Olle 5. Early on, I passed by a group of Koreans all decked out in their hiking gear. Later on, I swear I saw the same group up ahead of me… Cheaters! Don’t know how they skipped ahead of me, but it wasn’t on the trail. Haha I eventually passed them again and a few of them passed me. It seemed that we were in competition, because they seemed to making a real effort to stay in front of me. I was talking to an older Korean woman later on who was hiking the Olle and she spoke English very well!

All decked out in their hiking gear!

The Olle was pretty and went along the coast for a while.  The Olle was 14.7 km plus the 1.5 km walk to the bus stop afterwards, for  a total of 16.2 km in 3 hours and 40 minutes!! Woo! As I was walking back towards the bus stop, I was back on the Olle course for a little bit and the group of Koreans were heading the opposite way (towards the end where I just came from) and the asked if I finished already and were shocked when I said yes. Some of them said “Woah, balli balli!!” (Wow! Really fast!) Besides my feet, I felt AMAZING afterwards! Mind, body, and soul were all feeling fabulous!

A lovely little factory.

Painting on a telephone pole.

Finished & Feeling Fabulous!

After I got home, I was chatting with Karima for a little bit and noticed that I started peeling from my sunburn in the Philippines. It was so bad! I peeled one piece of my lower back that was as big as a toilet paper square! (Not exaggerating. I know some of you are probably grossed out, but I think it’s kind of awesome. I have a weird habit of always wanting to pick at things, so needless to say this was going to keep me busy for a while!)

When my grandma was at her high school reunion this past summer, she was talking to an old school mate, Carole. As all grandparents do, my grandma was bragging about me teaching in Korea. Carole and her husband, Jim, just so happened to be going to South Korea to visit their friends, Don and Nancy, who live on a US Military base on the mainland of South Korea. The four of them were planning a little trip to Jeju for a few days. So I got in touch with them and we planned to meet up for dinner while they were in Jeju. They were all wonderful!! I first showed them Chunjiyeon Waterfall down by the Seogwipo Harbor. And then we headed up to City Hall in Jejusi. I took them to my favorite bulgogi restaurant! I wasn’t surprised that they all loved it! It was so great to meet them all. Great people! Great talk! Great food!

With Carole and Jim at Chunjiyeon Waterfall!

After I got home, Karima and I chatted, ate Cheetoes, made a Gangnam Style PowerPoint game for my 6th grade classes on Monday, and watched New Girl.

It was the most perfect Sunday! 

Good-Bye Ma’am!

Had some more really intense rain my last night sleeping in the Philippines, which didn’t let me sleep very well. They had breakfast bright and early as usual… Bread & butter, bacon, and an egg. I was so happy they gave me bacon for my last day here! I told them I wanted to go to the airport at 1o am, but true to form I was told the car was there 30 minutes early. The same man that picked me up from the airport drove me back. Him and his wife own the pension, but he also works in the air traffic control booth at the airport. He made a comment on our drive saying that I didn’t go out much at night while I was here. He wished he had asked some of his bachelor friends to hang out with me… Thank God he didn’t!! This trip was exactly what I wanted it to be. Time to myself to relax and do whatever. Peacefulness. Nothing went wrong. No scams. I never felt threatened. It was perfect.

The people at Annabelle’s Pension were wonderful. They were always so kind and attentive. They referred to me as “ma’am” every time they talked to me. I felt like a queen. It also probably had a little something to do with the fact that I was the ONLY guest staying there.

I had a lot of time to kill at the Puerto Princessa Airport, so I spoiled myself with some food. I also learned a few things… On the TV, they had lots of “Did you know…?” facts pop up. Like “Did you know a blue whale’s tongue weighs more than an adult elephant?” or “Did you know the umbrella was first designed to protect from the sun in Egypt and had nothing to do with rain?” or “Did you know the giant squid as the biggest eyes in the world?” Did you know all that? Well, now you do.

The flight from Puerto Princessa to Manila went smoothly. Then at the Manila airport, I spoiled myself some more with Skittles and some vanilla gelato. It was seriously the best gelato ever! The vanilla flavor was so rich, it was like heaven!! On the plane from Manila to Seoul, I saw Yumi and her husband (who I had met while island hopping the other day), so I chatted with Yumi quite a bit. She’s a music teacher in Seoul, she used to live in Manila for a year or two, and her and her husband do a lot of traveling. Wonderful woman! While on the plane, there was this Korean man with a giant camera and a super long lens taking millions of pictures of the Filipino stewardesses… Creeper! He’s like their own paparazzi. I thought it was rather creepy myself, and Yumi very much agreed with me. Haha weirdo.

Just landed in Seoul!

I landed at Incheon Airport in Seoul around 9:30 pm and had to wait in line for immigration for a while. Then I headed to the train to take me to Gimpo Airport for my morning flight back to Jeju. I was planning on just camping out in the airport for the night because I had such an early flight to Jeju… Easier said than done. I arrived at Gimpo Airport around 10:30 pm and grabbed a late dinner. Then as I was heading over to some chairs a security guard walked up to me, “What are you doing?” I explained that I’m going to sit in the chairs for the night because my flight is in the morning. “No. Closed. Outside. Motel. Hotel.” Well I’m not going to pay for a hotel for maybe 6 hours of sleep. So I decided to head over to the international terminal at Gimpo Airport… It’s about a 2 km walk. When I got there, there were hardly any people there. I picked a spot on some chairs and was sitting there for about an hour and no one was bothering me, so I figured it was okay that I stay there for the night. Then 2 security guards walked up and told me I had to move outside the roped off area (after much confusion by their broken English and hand gestures). So I found a place on the cold, concrete floor. As I was getting “comfortable,” the night time cleaning crews came through talking and laughing. It was pretty quiet by 2:30 am. Then at 4:30 am a security guard came and woke me up. “Kenchanayo?” (Are you ok?) And then he told me I could move to the chairs… Where I had just been 4 1/2 hours earlier, but got told to move.  I know he was trying to be nice, but I wish he would have just left me alone for the next 45 minutes before I had to get up to walk back to the domestic terminal.

So much for a good night’s sleep… FYI for those of you that ever plan on sleeping in Gimpo Airport, you’re better off getting a hotel. I learned the hard way.

Brooke Teacher heading back to Jeju on a Friday morning ready to teach right after the plane touches down!

Back to Jeju!

Underground River!!

Got woken up this morning at 6:23 am to “Ma’am? Your breakfast is ready.” Bread & butter, ham, and an egg awaited me out in the lovely little courtyard just like every morning, but unlike every other morning it started raining. This is not a good sign for the day. It rained so much last night, I figured it would be done by this morning.

These are what the taxis look like in Palawan… Definitely not the smoothest ride, but fun!

Gerald (the driver for today) picked me up at 7:15 am and then we headed to pick up the other 4 people going along on the tour today. The Underground River was about a 2 hour drive away from Puerto Princessa City. We made a pit stop at about the halfway point at a little shop on the side of the road. I wasn’t interested in buying anymore souvenirs, so I was just walking around. Then I discovered a staircase that went up to a little porch filled with wind chimes and looked out to a gorgeous view of one of the bays (I forgot the name) below. It was so cool to listen to when the wind came through! It was such a nice and peaceful place, that is until everyone else came up to see what I’d discovered. Haha and of course when I wanted to take a video of all the wind chimes making their lovely noises, the wind stopped.

As we were driving along, we saw the “Avatar” rock. They call it this because it looks so much like the floating rocks in the movie Avatar.

Are we on Pandora?!

Ugong Rock & Ziplining

Our little group with our driver, Gerald!

Then we made another stop at Ugong Rock! It was this HUGE cave-like rock, so you had to walk through all these cool rock formations. We could see where erosion had occurred on the rock when it used to be covered by the sea. Towards the end of our Ugong Rock adventure, we got to try what they call “spelunking.” (I’m pretty sure spelunking in the US is repelling down into caves, not climbing up a rock while holding two ropes and having 5 people telling you were to step every inch of the way up. Lol) Also, our driver Gerald (Who was really cool! We talked for most of the ride.) took it upon himself to be my own personal photographer. I like to have pictures of myself, but I don’t need a picture taken of myself every 30 seconds. Haha.

Ready to go!

And we’re off!

Another picture taken by my own personal photographer!

“Spelunking” up through the cave!

Gerald & Me!

Then at the very end, we went ziplining!! It is the fastest zipline in the Philippines at 75 meters high, 365 meters long, and it only takes 21 seconds! It was fun!! I would have enjoyed it a lot more had it not been for the harness rubbing against my awful sunburn. Very painful!

A nice little ride down!

I did it!!

Underground River

Our next stop was the Underground River!! We had to wait for a little bit for our tour guide to register us and then wait for our turn to get on the motorized boat to take us to the beach. While we were waiting under the ten for our boat, I was sitting by the edge of the tent and I felt a couple raindrops. I didn’t want my camera to get wet at all so I moved in towards the middle of the tent. Not even 30 seconds after I moved in more that a torrential downpour was upon us!! Wow! It was intense! And then it stopped for a little bit and started back up again. It continued like this all day. That kind of put a damper on things. The old Filipino couple that was with us bought little plastic ponchos for everybody! Awesome people!

Not too bad of a view while we wait…

We finally got our turn for the motorized boat. It took us along the coast and dropped us off on a beach. Then we walked through the woods/jungle for a little bit to a little lagoon where the entrance to the Underground River was. First we had to put on these hard hats and bright orange life jackets over our big plastic raincoats… New York Fashion Week, here we come!!

Dressed to the nines!

The water outside the cave and going into the cave is this weird green color. I was told it turns that color when salt water meets fresh water. Then we hopped in another boat propelled by manpower! There was a guide on each boat that told you all about everything inside the cave as he worked the oars.

And our journey begins!

The inside of the cave was unbelievable!! Some parts of the cave ceiling were really high up, and I think they said the highest point in the cave is 65 meters above sea level. There were bats flying EVERYWHERE!! Luckily we didn’t get dropped on. Our guide said there is lots of diversity, as far as animals go, in and around the cave. He noted that there are lots of eels in the water. The rock formations were really cool. One looked like Jesus’s face with his left eye covered. We also saw the backside of a “naked lady” and a vegetable garden. One portion of the cave had lots of formations that looked much like vegetables. There were also some different colors of rock throughout the cave. So unbelievable! Hope you enjoy the pictures…

Entering the cave…

The Underground River…

and more…

A really big rock formation…

In the dome, where the highest point is about 65 meters above sea level!

Some funky rock formations!

and some more!

The view from just inside looking out!

We also got to see some monkeys jumping around…

Monkey see… Food?

This just makes me laugh every time I watch it…

Haha here we go!

Waiting for our boat to go back…

The Underground River is under St. Paul’s Mountain. It’s called that because the peak of the mountain looks very much like his nose and the other smaller peaks make up the forms for the rest of his face. Beautiful!

St. Paul’s Face!

After we got back  to the registration office, we walked over to a little place for an “All you can eat” buffet lunch. It was pretty good! I had a full plate of rice, noodles, egg rolls, some sort of meat/veggie mix, and dried banana chips. Everyone was giving me a hard time because I didn’t get seconds. Their first reaction was “Diet?” Haha is it a crime to only eat 1 full plate of food?? There was a sign on the front of the restaurant saying “No Leftover Policy. 200 Peso Penalty.” Haha that’s awesome!

When I got back to the van, we had to wait a little while for the others. They must have gone off shopping or something. While we were waiting, Gerald gave me some gifts “to remember him by.” (I think he fell in love. Haha) he gave me a Love Pearl necklace. A oyster is in a can and you have to open the oyster yourself (no easy task when all you have is a bobby pin in your room) to get the pearl out. My pearl was white, which is a symbol for good health. Then the pearl goes in a heart-shaped cage on a necklace. He also gave me a key chain with a little turquoise and pink man on it. Then he played love songs all the way back to Puerto Princessa City, which may I remind you is a 2 hour drive!

Gifts from Gerald!

My last full day in Palawan was wonderful!!! 

Puerto Princessa City!!

Last night, I told the woman at the pension that I wanted to order a tricycle taxi to take me into town for the day tomorrow. I said I wanted the tricycle to come at 10 am. Do you think they’d let me sleep in then? Nope. A little before 7 am, there was a knock on the door, “Ma’am? Your breakfast is ready.” Rice, an egg, and some mystery meat… It was dark red and stringy. I’ve never seen anything like it, but it was tasty. And at 9 am, the tricycle arrived to bring me to town, nevermind that I didn’t want to go til 10.

The taxi/tricycle ride was a little rough…

I got dropped off at the Bay Walk. My plan for the day is to hang out, walk around, read, shop, people watch, and just whatever… Basically, no plan. Time moves so slow here. Laid back island time. No phone. No email. No Facebook. I love it! This is exactly what I needed/wanted! I met two boys riding their bikes on the Bay Walk. They didn’t know much English, but they were able to ask me a few questions and tell me their names were Rain and Kim.

Relaxing on the Bay Walk..

I hung out at Jollibee (a fast food restaurant) slurping on a blue raspberry Sprite float as I sat in the nice air conditioning writing letters and people watched. Mostly just to get out of the sun… I didn’t need anymore sun on my body.

I walked around for a while after and eventually heard a woman on a loud speaker. I soon noticed that the sound was coming from a little pavilion packed with people. There were a bunch of little munchkins running around with these red and yellow hula hoop things. They did a little choreographed dance to the Black Eyed Peas’ remake of “Time of My Life.” Of course, a bunch of 3-4 year olds performing a choreographed dance is basically just copying whatever their teacher does. Haha cute. Towards the end of the song, the kids were ambushed by their parents with big giant cameras in their face… Ever hear of this little feature on your camera called zoom?? This was a little celebration for Universal Children’s Month.

Palawan Museum

Afterward, I walked through the little Palawan Museum. Another excuse just to get out of the sun, though I did learn a lot about the island. One thing was that the Spanish had come here some years ago, which makes sense why I was seeing a lot  of Spanish words on signs everywhere. Also, Palawan is the home of 4 different native tribes: the Tau’t Bato, the Palaw’an, the Batan, and the Tagbanua. Palawan was also influenced by the Chinese with white and blue China and by Thailand and Vietnam with pottery.

Just to show how big the giant clams I saw yesterday snorkeling actually are!

The Palawan Museum… My escape from the sun for an hour!

A new friend! (It appears I’m a little desperate for some company.) 😉

After walking around some more (I saw my little friends Rain and Kim again), getting lunch, and a little souvenir shopping, I went back and relaxed in the pavilion. I sat in there for almost 2 hours reading, writing, and watching the little crazies running around! A bunch of them had the funnest time kicking a little plastic juice jug around for the majority of the time I was sitting there. They also threw it at each other and would laugh hysterically when it would hit their friend. There were also a few balloons they were hitting, jumping on the water gates on the ground, playing with two little matchbox dump trucks. I got to thinking… It is INSANE how much money parents back in the US (I’m not sure about other countries..) spend on Christmas presents when these little kids had the “time of their life” with basically nothing. I remember when I was younger and living at home, Dillon and I would have a great time playing PIG or HORSE in the kitchen with a dirty rolled up sock and a laundry basket. Or we would run around in one of the old farm buildings and shoot raccoons with a BB gun (and got so confused why they still lived after we shot them 4 or 5 times) or pretend we were on an “adventure.” Most of the hundreds of dollars our parents spent on toys ended up in the bottom of the toy box and barely saw the light of day. (Sorry about that!)

I headed back to the Bay Walk and sat down to write some postcards. While I was sitting there, the two cutest little boys (one in just a tank top and underwear) came up and tried to sell me some nuts. Who could say ‘no’ to these faces? (Good marketing.) Had I liked nuts, I would’ve said yes, but I said no and sent them on their way. Then they came back later. I didn’t want any nuts, but I gave them each 5 pesos and asked if I could take their picture. They told the girl that was with them and showed her the money I gave them. Then they all got together and smiled for the camera… This is my FAVORITE picture from the Philippines! 🙂

Cuties!!