Tuesday 19 April 2011

Cherry Blossom Festival

          Spring has finally shook off the lasting grip of winter and Korea has begun to return to life. The change happened so quickly and with such little notice that it made the surprise all the better. Last week when I opened the blinds on my kitchen window I expected, as usual, to see the same dead dull and devoid of life grass bank staring back in at me. What I saw though made me smile because instead of a lifeless verge of brown I saw a sea of green grass shoots sprouting up.
          I love spring and, since then, the evidence that it is really here has kept on growing. Farmers around are ploughing the land and the smell of fresh earth is in the air (reminds me of dad). The ice is almost none existent with only the last few remnants hiding in the shadows. Best of all though are the flowers. Tiny little flowers bursting out of the ground and big beautiful blossoms exploding on the trees. They flowers are so welcome after a long bitter winter that they even get their own festival (and they deserve it).                              

          Last Saturday, Vanessa, Kyle and I left English Village to see if the 2011 Cherry Blossom Festival was as beautiful as we heard it could be. Yeouido park was alive. Crowds of people had flocked from all over to see the blossoms that lined the streets and parks all around. Magnolia trees also had fantastic blossoms crowning their branches as well as flower beds full of all the colours of the rainbow. Daffodils growing beside the lake reminded me of mom's daffodils at home.

             Marcus joined us and we all walked together before finding a spot on the grass by the river to people watch and bask in the glorious sunshine.

          Spring once again managed to prove itself to me and continue to remain my favourite season. It's hard to see how anything could have been better than sitting with good friends on a wonderful sunny day surrounded by new life and happiness. My expectations of the festival weren't disappointed...

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Vanessa's birthday weekend..

                                                     Happy birthday Vanessa!!

           Today is her official birthday but we all celebrated last weekend and it was a lot of fun. We choose to go out Friday night as we decided that for once it would be good to come home on a Saturday and then have the whole day on Sunday to relax and enjoy at home! So Friday after work we got the subway to Itaewon and enjoyed a really yummy Thai meal in Buddah's Belly (behind the Hamilton Hotel). I had spicy stir-fried chicken with cashews nuts and from the smells of the numerous other dishes they were all equally delicios! After dinner we moved to a little bar down the street called bungalow. Our seats were swings hanging from the roof and we all had to take off our shoes as the floor was coated in a layer of sand. I loved it.. such a cool atmosphere (even if the drinks were a little more than in most places). Next was our frequent haunt, Scrooges. The cocktails are a lot cheaper here so we had quiet a few! Unfortunately as it was Friday night it wasn't as busy as usual but we still have a very fun night. A great night with great friends!!
             Next morning we all went for breakfast together which was a nice way to start the day. Spring had truly arrived that Saturday and I was able to walk around in just short sleeves all day. I really love that weather.... hot enough to enjoy but cool enough to be able to walk around in comfort. Apparently this beautiful spring weather only last about a month before we get hit with (from all accounts) a very humid summer. After breakfastwe strolled around and enjoyed the sunshine before moving to another area of Seoul to go to a matinee performance of The Vagina Monologues. I'll admit I was apprehensive as I was unsure as of what to expect from this infamous performance but I needn't have worried because it was very enjoyable. The cast at times might not have been the greatest but I still laughed at times, and felt sad and times and definitely agreed with their statements at times..so all in all a success! After we all went for Italian before heading home to English village tired but happy!!

Monday 11 April 2011

Happy 21st Birthday Joanne!!

Padraig and Joanne
                  So Joanne gave me the best birthday present she could by being here for it (and she still bought me a present too..and brought pressies from home). I wanted to give her something special... I paid for her flights to Korea for her 21st but I still really wish I could have been there for her 21st party on Saturday and of course the day itself. I couldn't really buy another present so I decided a little video would show that I missed her and was thinking about her as always.

Mom and Joanne.
               I have seen the photos of the party and both Joanne and the party itself look amazing. I am so proud of her and I miss her loads but I know that the next few months will fly buy until I see her
Dad lifting Joanne beside her cake.... will he ever grow up?? xXx

Friday 8 April 2011

Joanne's Korean adventure.

Joanne and I celebrating my birthday!

                I have fallen way behind on my blog lately but with good reason because I had the most fantastic week with my little sister! The days before Joanne arrived I felt like a little kid waiting for Santa at Christmas. I could hardly sleep with excitement. That Thursday in work I couldn't concentrate even a little, constantly wondering where exactly she was at that time. When my head-teacher rang to say that Joanne was in reception I galloped down the stairs. Hugging Joanne was the best feeling, I had missed her so much. Seeing her there in my classroom was so surreal. I brought her home to get some sleep and reluctantly went back to teach. That night we went to a friend's and enjoyed delicious home-made pizza. Next morning I got up and went to work while Jo still slept, I expected her to stay sleeping... what I didn't expect was to find her still sleeping when I returned from work that afternoon. We took it easy that night playing the nintendo wii with Kyle and Vanessa. Bed early because we were getting up at 4.30 to catch the 5.08am train to Busan. We arrived in Busan at 9.30 that morning and headed straight for the motel. Poor Jo was wrecked as she hadn't slept at all and so after a quick look around we we back for a power nap. That night however with our energy slightly restored we got ready and Joanne's true Korean adventure began.
After Joanne's failed attempt at using chopsticks she opted to try her hand at  cooking.

 First thing on the list was a traditional Korean bbq dinner. Sam lead us down side-alleys and winding streets until we arrived at the restaurant which although it looked run-down he assured us he had tasted the best food in Korea here. Joanne's first trial came with the use of chopsticks and I'm afraid to say she failed miserably!! Not only did she manage to not secure and thus drop the food she had between her chopsticks but she also managed to knock over her drink in the process. (All that she managed in the first attempt). After that she gave up even attempting and resigned to eating her food with her fingers and a soup spoon.
                       After that we went for fruit soju (basically a fresh fruit smoothie with alcohol...yum!!). After the fruit soju we decided that it was time to enjoy a visit to the casino (unfortunately no cameras are allowed in the actual casino but I did get one at the entrance). We loved it. All we had to do was bet a minumum of 2,500 to get a seat and as long as we kept betting they supplied us with free drinks!! Joanne lost 30,000 won but I made a 5,000 profit. Dee made 40,000 and Kelly made an impressive 80,000. All in all it was a lot of fun and the free cocktails made it all the better!
Winning streak eat your heart out...    
  After this we moved areas and joined up with more friends, for more drinks, and more fun. All in all we stayed out a lot later than we thought we would.

         Next morning we decided to finally pluck our courage and go to a jimjealbang (a Korean Sauna - I have been avoiding this for the last three months). A jimjealbang is a daunting experience for westerners the first time as you get totally naked! YES, you read that right. Totally naked!! When we arrived Dee (foolishly) was first in the door of the women's area (men and women are seperate) and she actually burst into uncontrollable laughter. We couldn't help laughing at her (which was rude of us because I'm sure the Korean's thought we were laughing at them). It was nervous laughter because everywhere we looked were stark naked women. We braved up and stripped down and walked to the shower area trying our best not to make eye contact with anyone. After a few minutes of being naked in a pool together though you actually kinda forget that you are lacking clothes and begin to relax. By the end of the hour and a half we were strutting around as if this was the way we always looked. I have to say there was something very freeing about it. (No photos allowed here either... Hahah!)
 After that we took a trip to the beach to chill and have a bite to eat before catching the train home.

     Joanne and I arrived back in the English Village late that night and happily went to bed. Next morning I woke and Joanne gave me all the wonderful cards and presents from home, which made my birthday get off to a wonderful start. I went to work and Joanne joined me later to see my class. After school the teachers all sang happy birthday to me and we ate cake.                      
                                                                                                           Then Joanne and I got the train into Seoul to meet up with Dee, Sam and Kelly and enjoy a night out for my birthday....more wonderful presents!!  We drank cocktails and laughed and lot. The night ended up by spending 2 hours singing our hearts out in a noraebang (another have to Korean experience). Altogether it was a fantastic birthday which was made a million times better because Joanne was there with me.

Next day Dee, Kelly, Jo and I did all the tourist things we could in Seoul like visiting the temples and drinking herbal tea in a traditional tea house.

Seoul tower
 That night Jo and I visited Seoul tower and both of us were amazed at the huge expanse of the lights of Seoul city. 
           Next morning, unfortunately, it was time for Jo to leave but we had a last breakfast together before heading off to the airport. All things went smoothly and before I wanted it was time for Joanne to go through security. I really didn't want to let her go when I hugged her and I'm not ashamed to say we both ended up crying. I know that time will fly until I see her again (and everyone else) but I still missed her the second she was out of view! I wouldn't change those few days for any money!