Day 800 (Goodbye 2013!)

December 31, 2013

Today marks the 800th day I have spent living in Korea. That's 2.19 years. Or 19,200 hours.
It's also the last Monday of 2013.
With that comes reflection of what has been and curiosity of what's to come.

So here's what I've been up to since my sisters' visit ended in October:

Baeksu Pension
For the past few months, our friend group has continued to dwindle due to departures so we decided to get together for yet another weekend at a pension. This time the choice was a place called Baeksu which is on the coast about 1.5 hours north of Mokpo. The views were nothing short of amazing.





Fall Colours @ Dogap Temple
In order to take advantage of the fall colours, Patti and I spent a drizzly afternoon at a temple alongside a mountain range in Yeongam (about 30 minutes south of Mokpo).




School Festival & Events
Near the end of the semester, my school held its annual festival. This was the first event to be held in the brand new gymnasium so it was a big deal. The kids spent weeks perfecting their performances. A handful of teachers, including myself, were corralled into becoming a dance team. Without much practice, we danced on stage in front of 500+ school and community members to the song "Shy Boy" by Secret. There has yet to be any video evidence!




During the month of December I also spent time at work making hoddeok (호떡; pancakes with a sugary filling) and my rural school put on a pottery workshop.



Christmas
It boggles my mind that this was my third year spending Christmas away from home. It doesn't get easier over time, but being around great people makes a great difference.

The first sign of the Christmas season came with the first snowfall in early December. My mini Christmas tree and advent calendar helped, too!




The first stop of the holidays was made in Goheung (a small town about 2 hours east of Mokpo). A friend was gracious enough to have us invade her home. We enjoyed some amazing food and exchanged gifts.

While in the area, we took the opportunity to explore the nearby Sorok Island which served as the biggest leper colony in Korea. Goheung is also home to a rocket launchpad so we visited the accompanying Space Museum.

Sorok Island
"Sorok" means "small deer" which is what the island's shape resembles. At present, this island consists of only one hospital which still supports patients with leprosy. The leper colony was established during Japenese occupation in 1916. As was the case with most leper colonies during this time, patients were subject to harsh conditions. Some of the original buildings still stand on the hospital grounds, such as those used for autopsy and detention rooms. 



Naro Space Center
Nearby this museum is a rocket launchpad which was first used in 2009. 



I know what you're thinking; Nothing screams 'Christmas spirit' quite like leprosy and rocket ships.

I, of course, also took part in what have become my Christmas traditions since coming to Korea: Skyping with friends from home, baking cookies, having turkey dinner, and Skyping with my family on Canada's Christmas morning.



***

I will finish this two-day work week before starting my 10-day stint of vacation classes next Monday. For this session I have a project idea along the theme of Dragon's Den (or Shark Tank, if you're American) where my students will invent and market a new product/service.

I've also registered to take an online class during vacation which will bring me one step closer to becoming a qualified ESL specialist and will keep me busy until March.

I will then have two mind-numbing weeks of deskwarming scattered between my four weeks of vacation. During the last week of February I'll be heading to sunshine, warmth, and beaches in Guam. So that's definitely something to look forward to!

Happy 2014!

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