Hiking Mt. Geumosan

We count ourselves lucky to be located in Gyeongbuk, agreed to be Korea’s most naturally beautiful and historically rich province.  So far, our experience has already provided us many opportunities to partake in Korea’s scenic splendor, one of these opportunities being Geumosan Provincial Park.

Located on the west side of the city of Gumi, Mt. Geumosan is the perfect weekend getaway for any outdoorsman.  The park offers many trails of varying difficulty and duration.  Not only are there natural beauties, such as gorgeous panoramic views, caves, waterfalls, and unique rock formations, but also several different historic fortresses and Buddhist temples sprinkled along the way.  We’ve visited the park twice in our short time in Korea, and have only scratched the surface of all the beauty to be found at Mt. Geumosan.

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There are these cairns everywhere along the trails in Korea.  Each stone represents a prayer or wish for good fortune from Buddha.

There are these cairns everywhere along the trails in Korea. Each stone represents a prayer or wish for good fortune from Buddha.

Found a little abandoned mountain dwelling.

Found a little abandoned mountain dwelling.

Going hiking where all the trail markings are in a foreign language adds a whole new dimension to the challenge!

Going hiking where all the trail markings are in a foreign language adds a whole new dimension to the challenge!

Daehye Falls ( 대혜폭포 )

Daehye Falls ( 대혜폭포 )

From the mouth of a cave at the top of the trail.

From the mouth of a cave at the top of the trail.

Historic Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

Historic Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

From inside the fortress.

From inside the fortress.

Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

Geumosanseong Fortress (금오산성)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

Yaksaam Temple (약사암)

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Always keep your eyes open for pretty little hanok pavilions tucked away in the mountains.

Always keep your eyes open for pretty little hanok pavilions tucked away in the mountains.

Such a rewarding view at the top!

Such a rewarding view at the top!

Surveying our fine valley.

Surveying our fine valley.

I am a Middle School Teacher

So we’ve officially been in our new city for three weeks! And during this time, I’ve done a terrible job keeping up a flow of updates.  Sorry about that.  It seems that, for the past couple of weeks, it has been success enough to continue adjusting to a foreign land.  After work, we barely have enough energy to walk two blocks to our neighborhood market to pick up bread, let alone process into words every change our lives have undergone these last few weeks.  But I think we can finally say we are adjusted to the reality that we aren’t going home next week after a lovely Asian vacation.  We are here to stay.  This is our new “home.”  At least until the next grand adventure. 

My primary middle school!

My primary middle school!

So, I’m a teacher.  Two years ago, I would have never guessed that every week, I would be standing at the front of a classroom, teaching over 600 students who barely speak my language.  Each day requires every ounce of my creativity, as I am continuously searching out successful methods to communicate to a bunch of angsty teens who’d rather be listening to E.X.O. or beating LoL than playing bingo with English vocabulary words.

And I absolutely love it.

Each week I teach at two middle schools in our little town.  My primary school is the local public middle school.  Here I teach 15 different classes of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders.  My classes emphasize the listening and speaking aspects of language.  The students are a wide range of completely dedicated to completely uninterested, completely crazy ( I get an average of around twenty TEACHER WILL YOU MARRY ME’s a day), and completely adorable ( I had one sweet little boy bashfully admit to me he liked to sing, and then not-so-bashfully break into a ballad for the whole class to hear!).

My adorable seventh graders!

My adorable seventh graders!

My secondary school is an all-boys Catholic school.  A little bit of a shock here, as I wasn’t told it was all-boys, and discovered this forgotten detail the minute I walked into my first class.  I quickly adjusted to the 40 pairs of little eyes staring at me, and pulled out my feeble knowledge of popular Kpop girl bands!  Apink, you saved my skin, as my boys have officially given me the stamp of approval, after I let them each take turns saying which girl in the band they thought was prettiest. 

The native teachers at each school have been so welcoming to me, and I am already making good friends with the sweet gray-haired history teacher who sits next to me in the teacher’s office.  We enjoy using Google images to help communicate back and forth about various subjects (Last week, he pointed to the computer screen and proudly exclaimed: “Jimmy Carter! Handsome boy! Favorite president!”).  Several times a week we will end the day with one of the teachers running out to get a big box of food from a neighboring street vendor.  We’ll gather around the little table, break out the disposable chopsticks, and commune together over deep-fried squid, marinated rice cakes, and Sundae (rice noodles cooked in pork blood, stuffed into a pig intestine).

My co-workers are incredible! We may not speak the same language, but their kindness is evidenced every day by sweet little gifts and welcoming smiles.

My co-workers are incredible! We may not speak the same language, but their kindness is evidenced every day by sweet little gifts and welcoming smiles.

Brady teaches at two elementary schools.  His primary school is on the other side of the road from mine, allowing us to walk to and from school together every day.  DREAM COME TRUE.  I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to see my sweet husband’s silhouette coming up the sidewalk to pick me up after class, and walk side by side with him home, sharing the funny things our students did that day.

Brady has had an awesome experience so far.  I always knew he would be the perfect elementary teacher!  He is excited to start incorporating his passion for art into his classroom, encouraging the kids to make their English endeavors artistically creative.  Being young and cute and innocent, Brady’s students love to sing every day in class, and are extremely affectionate and helpful (He told me today that he tried to make them play a competitive game in class, dividing the kids into teams.  The students refused to let anyone lose, and every winner stopped to help the struggling students finish the task!). 

Well, lesson planning is calling my name, so this teacher better hit the books before heading to bed.

Becoming Expats

I can’t believe we’ve already been in our new country for two weeks!  The time has flown by, and we’ve hardly had a chance to recognize each transition, as they’ve all come at break-neck speed.  We are quickly adjusting to the fact that we are not tourists cheerfully observing a new culture with the comfort of a roundtrip ticket in our back pocket.  We are expats, embracing the reality that this is now home.  And so far, we couldn’t be happier about it!

EPIK Teacher Orientation

The past nine days, we have been located at a university campus in Deajeon, where we have survived a grueling yet rewarding teacher training orientation.  Every new public school English teacher in Korea must go through intensive training put on by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED). The English Program in Korea, commonly known as EPIK, is well known for its high standards for teacher applicants, and excellence and proficiency in training and implementing those teachers in the Korean public school system.  Our orientation affirmed our expectations in the program.  We have come out filled with practical teaching knowledge, a broad network of experienced support staff, and dozens of fellow foreign teacher friends!

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2015 Spring EPIK Orientation

Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을)

On one of the days we were given a break from the brutal lecture schedule and explored a traditional Korean village: Jeonju Hanok Village.  With over a thousand-year-old history, Jeonju Hanok Village has so many interesting aspects of Korean culture to offer.  Below are just a few:

Bibimbap (비빔밥):  Jeonju is famous nation-wide for its Bibimbap!  This traditional Korean dish is served as a bowl of hot rice mixed with “namul” (sautéed vegetables) raw or fried egg, flavored with either soy sauce, “doenjang” (soybean paste), or “gochujang” (chili pepper paste).

Bibimbap (비빔밥)

Bibimbap (비빔밥)

Hanok (한옥):  Hanok traditional style Korean homes are easily identified by their beautiful upturned roofs (“Cheoma”).  Hanok homes are where Korea’s famous “Ondol” heated floor system originated.  Even in historic times, Koreans were environmentally conscious and built their Hanok homes with all-natural, recyclable, nonpolluting materials.  The Cheoma roofs can be adjusted to control exposure to sunlight inside the home, and the “Hanji” (paper) windows allow air to circulate.

Hanok Traditional Korean Homes

Hanok Traditional Korean Homes

Hanok architectere is easily identified by the upturned corners of the roof.

Hanok architectere is easily identified by the upturned corners of the roof.

Jeondong Catholic Church (전동성당):  Built in 1908-1914, Jeondong Catholic Church stands as a memorial marking the spot of the first Korean Christian martyrs: Yun Chi’-ch’ung and Kwon Sang-yon in 1781.  Jeonju city is the historic seat of the Joseon Dynasty.  Christian faith was then seen as a threat to the state established Confucian system.  In 1801, several prominent leaders of the early Christian church were also executed on this spot.  It is said that the cornerstones used to build the church were stones taken from the very gate the martyrs were hung from.

Jeondong Catholic Church, memorial to Christian martyrs of Korea.

Jeondong Catholic Church, memorial to Christian martyrs of Korea.

The Philosophy of Taekwondo

On a separate day, we were lucky enough to take a class on the Philosophy of Taekwondo from a Korean university Taekwondo master instructor!  For two hours, the gym was a chaotic throng of struggling Westerners attempting basic stances and kicks, peppered with the instructor’s laughter at our clumsiness!

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I thinks that’s all I have time for tonight!  Next I will give an update on our first few days discovering the city we will be teaching in and our new apartment!

Thank you all for following along and keeping us in your prayers!