A Year in Photographs!!

I loved photography before, but I love it even more now!! This year was great for photography! I finally spoiled myself with a DSLR camera, that I’m still learning to use… I’ll be a pro at it someday! And I was insanely spoiled with living on a gorgeous island that I never got sick of taking pictures of! Here is a little gallery of my favorite snapshots of the year… One for every month! Plus my favorite picture from each country I visited while I was here. (I have a feeling this is going to be rather difficult to just pick ONE for each month… We’ll see how it goes.) Enjoy!

February 2012

The start to an amazing adventure!

The start to an amazing adventure!

March 2012

Me, Jeong-eun, Hyun-jeong, and Seunghee... Who became my little Korean family!

Me, Jeong-eun, Hyun-jeong, and Seunghee… Who became my little Korean family!

April 2012

The start of my Olle journey!

The start of my Olle journey!

May 2012

Teaching with my co-teacher and good friend, Eun-mi!

Teaching with my co-teacher and good friend, Eun-mi!

Probably the cutest face in all of Osaka, Japan!

Probably the cutest face in all of Osaka, Japan!

June 2012

Being silly with Hyae-jeong, Jyoo-yun, and Ji-su at the English Story Telling Competition!

Being silly with Hyae-jeong, Jyoo-yun, and Ji-su at the English Story Telling Competition!

July 2012

Jun-hyung stole my slippers for the story book I made called "Brooke's Slippers!"

Jun-hyung stole my slippers for the story book I made called “Brooke’s Slippers!”

August 2012

Damage at the school from Typhoon Bolaven.

Damage at the school from Typhoon Bolaven.

Climbing the Great Wall of China outside Beijing!

Climbing the Great Wall of China outside Beijing!

The horse I named Marida (means 'horse' in Korean) that I rode for 9 days all of the rolling, green steppes near Ulan Baatar, Mongolia!

The horse I named Marida (means ‘horse’ in Korean) that I rode for 9 days all over the rolling, green steppes near Ulan Baatar, Mongolia!

September 2012

Jin-sook made a delicious dinner for Grandma's visit!

Jin-sook made a delicious dinner for Grandma’s visit!

October 2012

Three cuties selling peanuts in Puerto Princessa City on Palawan Island in the Philippines!

Three cuties selling peanuts in Puerto Princessa City on Palawan Island in the Philippines!

A lovely time with my grandma's old school mate, Carole, and her husband, Jim, on their visit to Jeju!

A lovely time with my grandma’s old school mate, Carole, and her husband, Jim, on their visit to Jeju!

November 2012

On Chuja Island hiking the hardest Olle!

On Chuja Island hiking the hardest Olle!

Sticka Foto session for my 24th birthday with Karima & Billy!

Sticka Foto session for my 24th birthday with Karima & Billy!

December 2012

Putting together a puzzle on Christmas with Becca and a couple of Sarah's students!

Putting together a puzzle on Christmas with Becca and a couple of Sarah’s students!

Was able to talk and Skype with family back home and even open presents "with" them on Christmas!

Was able to talk and Skype with family back home and even open presents “with” them on Christmas!

January 2013

An amazing day on Olle 14-1! Thank you to Sarah, Hannah, and Dominique for making it so much fun!!!

An amazing day on Olle 14-1! Thank you to Sarah, Hannah, and Dominique for making it so much fun!!!

Going through the low-ceilinged caves on the Tam Coc River near Hanoi, Vietnam!

Going through the low-ceilinged caves on the Tam Coc River near Hanoi, Vietnam!

Spending the day feeding, riding, and bathing elephants near Chiang Mai, Thailand!!

Spending the day feeding, riding, and bathing elephants near Chiang Mai, Thailand!!

February 2013

Karima, Sarah, and Hannah hiked Hallasan!! It's a volcanic mountain on Jeju Island and the highest point in South Korea! (Very sore for days after!)

Karima, Sarah, Hannah, and I hiked Hallasan!! It’s a volcanic mountain on Jeju Island and the highest point in South Korea! (Very sore for days after!)

Jeju, it’s been great! It has definitely been the best year of my life thus far!! There were so many new adventures and food and FRIENDS!! The people I’ve met in the past year have been wonderful! I’m going to miss you all so much!! Until we meet again… CHEERS!! 🙂

I didn’t notice this until after I posted, but February 20th, 2013 (the day I posted this) is exactly 1 year after I landed in Korea!


Last Day in Beijing!!

The Great Wall of China

This morning I got up early to go on the Secret Great Wall Hike tour the hostel offers. On our way, we passed a not-so-secret part of the Wall and it was packed! I was surprised because it was still pretty early for so many people to already be there. The Badaling part of the Wall that we saw had maybe 30 other people on it, besides the group of 9 that came from the hostel. I didn’t realize how much of a workout it would be! Straight up and straight down for the most part. Our guide said the wall is about 6,000 kilometers (or approximately 4,000 miles)!! It is massive and so beautiful! You could see the wall go over the peaks of all the hills around us. It seemed to be never-ending, just winding up and down hills everywhere! We climbed pretty high on the wall and probably got about 3/4 of the way to the highest peak… Maybe a little more than that. We spent a lovely few hours there and saw the part of the wall where the Mongolians broke through the wall. We saw many watch towers and there were also holes in the wall. These holes were angled down so that Chinese soldiers could more easily shoot the Mongolians coming up the hill. What an amazing time!! (It was hard to choose just a few pictures…)

At the bottom of the picture, you can see where the Mongolians broke through.

A nice steep walk up to the watch tower.

The Wall winding around the tops of the hills/mountains! So beautiful!

One of the shooting holes angled down to get a better shot at the Mongolians.

So happy!!

My 2nd attempt at a jumping photo… My photographer went a little click-happy and took it a little too early both times. Haha oh well. 🙂

Made it to the 3/4 mark… Maybe more. Hot and sweaty and feeling GOOD!!

Oh happy day!!

Where the Mongolians broke through the Wall.

I wanted to try to go to the Forbidden City after we got back to the hostel, but it was too late. Oh well. Just one reason to come back to Beijing someday. 🙂

Since I don’t have a working phone in China, Dolly agreed to meet me at my hostel at 5:30. She never showed. (Too bad I didn’t know the tea house was a scam, because then I would’ve known she wasn’t going to show up after she scammed me. Boo.)

While walking through the underground crosswalk one night in Beijing, I saw this man doing some calligraphy. Unable to use his hands, he attached the paintbrush to his glasses!

Tiananmen Square Flag Ceremony

Even though Dolly ditched me, I still wanted to go see the flag ceremony in Tiananmen Square. It starts at 7:15, so I thought I’d get there a little bit early. There were TONS of people there! People were crowded around the fence about 5 layers deep that surrounded the area where the flag was… So I couldn’t see ANYTHING, besides the flag up in the air. So I took videos, so I could later watch what the big fuss was all about.

This first video… About 10 seconds in, you will see this woman on the right side of the screen and she just stares at me for the longest time. I think the only reason she ever looks away, or pretends like she wasn’t staring at me, is because I look at her. Haha so awkward, but this happens often in my experience on this continent so far.

Here is the very beginning of the flag ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing when the soldiers arrive.

Here is the part where the soldiers take down the flag in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. (2 videos)

Well that’s it Beijing! I’m really surprised how much I enjoyed this 2 day trip to Beijing! I thought it was going to be one of those rushed and exhausting trips. It was pretty chill and not nearly as stressful as I expected. I got to see everything I wanted to see (with the exception of the Forbidden City) and more!

Bye Beijing!!


On My Own!

After my tour, I decided to venture out and head out to Tiananmen Square. It was only about a 5-10 minute walk from my hostel. I was walking around the square taking pictures, when this woman walks up to me. She was doing all these camera-taking gestures. I guessed she wanted me to take their picture, so I was confused when they didn’t hand me the camera… Haha she just wanted her picture with me.

Tiananmen Square

The south side of Tiananmen Square.

Walking to the other end of Tiananmen Square… This is one MASSIVE square!

The north side of Tiananmen Square looking at the Forbidden City across the street.

The north side of Tiananmen Square looking from the Forbidden City to the center of the square at the panoramic screens showing scenes of China.

I kept walking and headed towards the Forbidden City. I was too late to go in the Forbidden City because it’s gates close at 4:30! Really?! As I was walking, a young woman stopped me to talk. She seemed really nice and then asked me to go to coffee with her friend. For some reason or another, I had a bad feeling and declined. She didn’t seem to happy about that. Sorry. Then I ran into another girl. She’s an art student here in Beijing and her school is holding an art exhibition right near the Forbidden City. She invited me in to look at some paintings. She is a great saleswoman! I bought one of her paintings for 200 RMB (about $30). Then she tried getting me to buy one of her professor’s paintings for 400 RMB. I said no and that I didn’t have that much money. She insisted, but I kept saying no. Then she talked with her professor and they lowered it to 150 RMB… I can handle that! Haha so I got 2 paintings and then they also wrote my name in calligraphy along with the symbol for happiness on a little poster as a gift for buying the paintings.

Forbidden City East Garden

Since the Forbidden City closed early, I decided to go in the “garden” next to it. I’m really not sure what this place was called, but it was beautiful inside with hardly any people to run into. There were several buildings in this garden and they were quite big! If the buildings in the garden are this impressive, I wonder what it must be like in the actual Forbidden City. There was so much detail put into the design of the buildings. I felt so small walking between them all.

One of the several huge buildings in the East Garden.

I also saw some people practicing Thai Chi in the garden.

Afternoon exercise in the park.

There was also a photo shoot going on..

Work it baby! Work it! Own it! No! No! No! (For those of you that don’t remember this quote, please refer to the Austin Powers trilogy.) 🙂

I thought I was walking through an exit, but no. It was just one of the many entrances to the Forbidden City, which was now closed. I made a friend there though! Her name is Dolly (aka Chong Lee) from Shanghai. We walked around for a while and she told me about the ceremony of taking down the flag in Tiananmen Square. We still had a couple hours before that would start, so we decided to go find a tea or coffee house. We talked a lot about random stuff, like school, language, teaching, traveling, etc., over tea, juice, and snacks. Later on, we ordered some alcoholic beverages. She got some red wine and I got this Chinese liquor. WOAH! It was extremely strong! So I ordered some juice to go with it. You could tell her and I don’t drink too often because a glass each was enough for us. We exchanged emails and then got the bill to go. (I later found out that this might have been one of the infamous tea house scams. Lesson learned, but it was quite an expensive lesson! It sucks that I was scammed, but regardless I did enjoy my time with her. Traveling by yourself can get pretty lonely, so it was nice to have some company. From now on, I won’t fall for the tea house scam and I hope this story is a good warning for anybody else out there that might find themselves in a similar situation.)

We then headed back to Tiananmen Square for the flag ceremony, but it was already over. She heard it was supposed to be at 7:50 and when we got there at 7:30, it was already over and the square was empty. Bummer. We decided to meet for dinner the next night before I leave Beijing. She walked me most of the way back to my hostel and then we parted ways.

Out ‘n’ About in Beijing!!

My tour guide, Nancy (aka Yun MinCloud), picked me up at my hostel this morning. I decided to take a private tour of the city so I could see all the things I really wanted to see in the city instead of trying to do it all by myself. We also had a private driver.

Panda House at the Beijing Zoo

Our first stop was the Panda House at the Beijing Zoo. We saw 5 giant pandas there, and a couple of them were younger and a little smaller. Most of them sat in a corner eating bamboo the whole time. Nancy was telling me an interesting story… In the 70’s, President Nixon and his wife visited China to develop relations between the two countries. While they were there, they met with Chairman Mao Zedong. He offered the Nixons some Panda brand cigarettes. The First Lady made a joke that she didn’t want Panda cigarettes, she wanted a real panda. Low and behold, China sent 2 pandas to First Lady Pat Nixon shortly after. She then donated them to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and held a big welcome ceremony for them.

Snack Time!

Summer Palace

The Summer Palace and GIANT Lily Pads!

This place was beautiful! The first thing you see once you walk in the gates is a huge lake with a bunch of paddle boats zooming around. The total area of the Summer Palace grounds is 2.9 square kilometers (approximately 716 acres), of which 75% of the are is taken up by the lake. There is a bridge that goes over the lake and it has 17 arches. The reason for this is because they believe 9 to be a heavenly number. So whether you start counting from the left or the right of the bridge, you will always have arch #9 in the middle, which is also the highest arch (closest to the heaven).

17 Arch Bridge

Jumping photo opp!

Gettin some air!

There are many older men that practice their calligraphy in the park. They use these huge paintbrush/brooms and paint on the sidewalk.

Puttin their skills to the test…

We also walked along a very long land bridge or corridor… Not sure on the correct term here. But anyways, it was 728 meters long and it went along the edge of the lake. In this land bridge, there were hundreds of paintings telling China’s history. It was really pretty!

A nice, long, beautiful, and colorful walk at the Summer Palace!

We also came upon a marble boat. It was made for the emperors. It also has some symbology… The marble boat represents the emperor, large and imperial, and the water represents the people of China. So the people of China (water) can either carry the emperor (marble boat) or capsize it. It shows that even though the emperor is big and powerful, he or she cannot survive without its people.

The Marble Boat!

I also noticed that many of the trees in the park had red and green signs on them. Nancy said that the green signs tell you that the tree is between 100 and 300 years old, and the red signs tell you the tree is over 300 years old!

Between 100 and 300 years old…

…Over 300 years old! Old guy needs a little support.

Getting their morning work out in… Dancing in the parking lot.

Dr. Tea House

A little surprise stop on the tour was the Dr. Tea House. Here a girl taught me how to make tea… The right way. She was also telling me about the different kinds of tea and their benefits. I’ve never been a fan of tea at all, but I felt it would’ve been rude if I didn’t try it when she offered it to me. It’s growing on me a little bit, but very slowly. Though she made this fruit tea before I got there and put it in the fridge… Iced fruit tea. It was DELICIOUS!! She also showed me the “pee pee boy.” It can test the water to see if it’s hot enough. When you poor water on him that isn’t hot enough, he doesn’t do anything. When you poor water on him that is hot enough to make tea, he “pees” everywhere! Haha

Here are the teas I learned about and their benefits…

  1. White Tea- It can dispel the affects of alcohol and nicotine, and it acts on cold, coughs, and sore throats.
  2. Golden Green Tea/Slimming Tea (Wild Puer Tea)- It can regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lose weight. If it’s mixed with honey, it’s good for insomnia.
  3. Oriental Beauty (The King of Oolong Tea)- It’s good for blood circulation, skin, anemia, enriches blood, and it can soften blood vessels. It it’s mixed with brown sugar, it can nourish the stomach.
  4. Jasmine Tea- It can drive away summer heat, improve eyesight, shake off drowsiness, and relieve headaches.
  5. Litchi Tea (Black Tea)- It’s good for digestion.
  6. Gin-seng Oolong Tea- It can help restore energy and protect the liver and kidney.
  7. Tian Qu Flower- It can help restore energy, protect liver and kidney, and can improve immunities.

Chinatown… In Beijing?? Makes sense I guess.

The Silk Museum

Another surprise stop was the Silk Museum. The woman that worked here that gave me the tour of the museum was not very friendly. She rushed through everything and made me feel like I was wasting her time, BUT it was really cool to see how silk is made. It comes from moth cocoons. They soak the cocoons in water and then take the moth worms out. Then they stretch it into a bunch. After that, they take the bunches of moth cocoons and stretch them far enough to make a blanket! For one layer, it takes about a ball the size of your fist (well my fist.. a small fist). They are able to stretch this to the size of a queen sized bed. I got to help stretch one layer. It was pretty neat!

One layer of a silk blanket…

Beijing Olympic Park

Our next stop was to see the Olympic buildings from the 2008 Olympics. The building were MASSIVE! I had no idea how big these buildings were.

The Beijing Olympic Green!

The Ling Long Pagoda

The Water Cube (Swimming & Diving), and to the right, the National Indoor Stadium (Gymnastics, Trampolining, & Handball)

The Birds’ Nest (Track & Field)

The Pangu Hotel… A 7-star hotel shaped like a dragon and made for the Olympics!

Jumping Photo Shoot (Sorry some of them are a little blurry.)

Jump # 1

Jump #2

Jump #3

Jump #4

Pearl Jewelry Store

The last stop of my private tour was another surprise stop… A pearl jewelry store. A woman showed me a freshwater oyster and how to tell the oyster’s age. Each thick black line represents one year, similar to how you tell the age of a tree. She also pointed out that freshwater oysters are triangular shaped, unlike saltwater oysters, which are oval shaped. She cut it open and had me guess how many pearls would be inside. Saltwater oysters have 1 pearl inside, whereas freshwater oysters have several. I guessed 10. Turns out there were 30! Fifteen on each side, but they were too small to make jewelry so they will be used to make creams and powders. She also told me how to tell if a pearl is real or not. If you rub two pearls together and they slip right off each other, then they are not real. If you rub them together and they scratch each other to make a white dust (no mater if the pearl is white or not), then it is real. And you just wipe the dust off and it looks like nothing happened to it. You can also rub them against your teeth and they should do the same thing.

Freshwater Oyster with 30 Pearls!!

That was the end of my tour…

Thank you to my lovely tour guide, Nancy!

Ni-how (Hello) Beijing!!

Well today is the day! The first time traveling abroad by myself… A little nervous but more excited!

I left my school at 11:30 on Friday to make it to catch the bus to make it to the airport on time for my flight. I was at the bus stop in time to catch the 11:38 bus… It never came. So I got on the next bus at 12:00. It’s going to be a close one. In Korea, it’s okay to show up at the airport 20-30 minutes before your flight, but this was going to cut it a little close. Sure enough, I show up at the airport 5 minutes before my flight takes off. Not enough time. The guy at the Tway Airline counter was very helpful and went with me to all the other airline counters to put me on all the priority stand-by lists. I just need to make it to Seoul in time for my 7pm flight to Beijing! There were a few tears shed here….

I texted Eun-mi telling her about the situation. I felt I needed to tell someone. I felt so alone and helpless because of the language barrier. I don’t think the guy from Tway really understood how badly I needed to get on a flight to Seoul ASAP! Eun-mi texted back asking me if she could help at all. I didn’t think she could really do anything that hadn’t already been done and told her that I was just really worried about missing my flight from Seoul to Beijing. She called about 30 minutes later. I explained everything that had been done, and then she said to put her on the phone with one of the Tway employees… I was on the very next flight out! I wish I could know what she says to these people to get me from the bottom of the priority stand-by lists to getting a ticket for the very next flight out…? There is no doubt in my mind that Eun-mi is AWESOME! The woman gave me a ticket and I had 15 minutes to get from the ticket counter to the gate before the plane would pull away. Thank goodness airport security here is nothing like it is in the US otherwise this would’ve been impossible. Took about 7 minutes to get from the ticket counter, through security, and to the line waiting to board the plane.

Towards the end of the flight from Jeju to Gimpo Airport in Seoul, I was talking to a Korean guy sitting next to me. After we got off the plane, he walked me to where the metro was to go from Gimpo Airport to Incheon Airport. He also warned me to be careful… I was wearing a shirt I got from Japan and the South Korean soccer team was about to play the Japanese soccer team in the 2012 London Olympics… BIG rival!

I made it to Incheon Airport with PLENTY of time to spare before my flight to Beijing! Victory!! Thanks Eun-mi!! 🙂

Waiting in Incheon Airport… It’s quite the popular sport among Korean women to take tons of pictures of yourself with your phone. So when in Korea, do as the Koreans do, right?

Ready to go!

After I landed in Beijing, I went outside to grab a taxi to go to the hostel I’ll be staying in. I followed the line of people and they were all getting in taxis that were driving up. There was a group of guys standing there and seemed kind of sketchy to me. One guy came up to me and told me they can take me to my hostel. I had a bad feeling about this because they didn’t seem to be trying to give rides to anybody else except me (an American girl who appears to be traveling all by herself). I followed my instincts and went back inside. I went to the tourist counter and ordered a car service… Turned out to be 50 RMB cheaper anyways! The ride to Leo’s Hostel was really quiet considering the driver barely spoke any English and I don’t know a single word of Chinese. So it was just a lot of looking out the windows for me and seeing this enormous city!! It took one hour to get from the airport to the hostel, and that’s without any traffic jams and taking the highway pretty much the whole way there.

I got to my hostel. It was on one of those streets that you see in the movies that is “typical” China… I think anyways. While I was getting settled in my room, I met my other roommates. An older man traveling by himself and then two girls from Israel.. Ronni and LaRaz. They were really nice to talk to.

Ahh so happy I made it safely here! I was getting really worried about getting from the airport to the hostel. So I’m very glad that leg of the trip is over!