Old, ancient, or… fossil?

Today’s lesson in my advanced class was on the elderly in South Korea. The elderlys make up a huge portion of the population but almost 50% of them are living in poverty. It’s a really sensitive topic.

I showed them this video in class and wanted to get the students to discuss it. But the atmosphere was really tense and no one was saying anything. After a few minutes, a student blurted out, “Teacher, I’m so old.”

He’s only 14 years old but I knew he was trying to change the mood. Going along with him, I asked him, “If you’re old, does that make me ancient?”

Some of the students laughed but his next words caught me off guard. With a completely straight face, he said, “No, teacher! You’re a living fossil!” Then started cracking up.

I love my advanced class 😂

Diệu Hiền Quận, Ansan

The best thing about living in Ansan is the multicultural city at Ansan Station. The moment you get off the train, it’s like stepping into a Southeast Asian country, kind of like the wardrobe in Narnia that leads you to another world.

There are a ton of factories in Ansan which means there are also a ton of immigrant workers. These workers bring their families to South Korea and with nothing to do, they open up restaurants! Being away from home is already hard enough but to live in another country for work is even harder. The thing people usually miss most about their home country is the food (myself included). You can bet that the food here is authentic otherwise these restaurants would go out of business pretty fast!

The restaurant looks small from the outside but it’s a lot bigger on the inside. It was actually really crowded with many tables crammed in next to each other. I’ve also been told that this is the most popular Vietnamese restaurant in the area so there were a lot of people inside.

I’m trying to find the best pho in South Korea so I went with the Pho Ga (Chicken Pho). Just based on how it looks, I like that it’s very simple with only a few ingredients. And honestly, I must say that the broth tasted just like my grandma’s! This means the broth must have been simmered for hours (my grandma usually simmers it overnight). The only thing I didn’t like was the chicken. It was really dry and didn’t taste fresh at all. Next time, I want to try the pho bo (beef pho).

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (I give it 5 stars simply because of the broth).

Location: Ansan Station, light blue line (line 4) and get out at exit 1. There is a highway outside the exit. Take the underground path to get to the other side of the highway, walk straight for a block, then turn left. The restaurant will be on your right at the end of the street.

Halloween 2018

Halloween is my favorite holiday but this year, I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. I’m the only foreigner teacher at my school and my manager wanted me to plan the annual Halloween party for 80 students. I’m a perfectionist but I hate making plans for anything. It takes me forever making a schedule, coming with games, and splitting all the classes into teams. And worst of all, we were going to split the Halloween party based on class blocks. That means planning six separate events instead of one big event.

The April classes only gets 40 minutes for their Halloween party while Chungdahm classes get 1 hour. We decided to have a Human Curling competition as the main event and do Spider Racing as the side game. The manager wanted me to do makeup for the kids so we added that in too. At the end of the party, there would be a costume contest and then a prize ceremony. Needless to say there was a lot to fit in with very little time. It was beyond stressful making the schedule but it was worth it in the end! Everyone has so much fun during the party.

Going to Ulleungdo for Chuseok

For Chuseok this year, my friend Julie and I went to Ulleungdo together. Ulleungdo is a small island to the East of South Korea with a population of about 10,000 people. It is the island every Korean want to visit but most foreigners don’t know about. This made the island a nice getaway as it wasn’t populated with tourists.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Getting to Ulleungdo is not easy. I live in Ansan and had to take an hour and a half subway ride to Seoul, then transfer to a bus to Gangneung Port which took 3 hours. Finally, the ferry ride to the island was another 3 hours.

Unlucky for me and the hundreds of other people on the ferry, the ocean was super rough on the way there. Everyone, and I mean everyone, got sick. The boat was enclosed and the AC was on full blast. It was cold and everyone was throwing up. I felt fine the first two hours but in the final hour, I felt sick and was unable to get a vomit bag in time. I ended up throwing up all over myself.

Ulleungdo is famous for it’s pumpkin and squid!

Three hours felt like forever but we eventually made it to the island! The first thing we did was check into the hotel and rested for a bit. Four of us were assigned to a hotel room and luckily we got the rooftop room! The view from the rooftop was gorgeous. After resting for about 2 hours, we went to eat lunch. Julie and I didn’t eat much though – we were still feeling too nauseous.

The first thing on the intinary was to hike the Haengnam Seaside Walkway. The hike itself wasn’t difficult. It was mostly bridges and stairs and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

The path eventually led to the Haengnam Lighthouse. The hike up to the lighthouse was a little more difficult as the main path was closed for renovations.

But it was worth it in the end considering the view at the top was stunning. My photos don’t do the scenery any justice.

On our way down, we stopped for a bit to bridge jump. I was too chicken to attempt the 7 meter jump off the bridge.

Later, we went hiking up to the Dokdo Museum and Dokdo Observatory. Japan and South Korea has been fighting over Dokdo for hundreds of years. I personally don’t care too much about history so I didn’t spend much time at the museum. I did enjoy taking the lift up to the observatory though!

The view from the Dokdo Observatory
Selca at the Dokdo Museum

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

After breakfast, we took a four hour bus tour around the entire island. It was relaxing after a long day yesterday.

I liked the underwater aquarium where we were able watch fish in their natural habitat.
Turtle rock

After the bus tour, we drove up to the Nari Basin (나리분지) in the center of the island. This village was built on top of a crater and the people living here often get snowed in during the winter! 😮

For lunch, we ate bibimbap made with the island’s herbs. A lot of people on the trip complained about the lack of meat but I really liked it. I’m not a vegetarian anymore but I still prefer to eat vegetarian dishes over meat.

After lunch, half the tour group went on a 6 hour hike up Seonginbong Peak (성인봉). Julie and I decided to skip this intense hike and explored the island instead. We walked around and found another coastal walkway. This one, however, was closed for maintenance but we were still able to take some beautiful pictures.

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Our last full day on the trip. Most of the people in the trip went on the Dokdo tour but Julie and I used our free time to explore the island instead.

The waterfall wasn’t as impressive as the picture but the fresh water tasted great!

After exploring the waterfall, we met up with our roommates, Lois and Janice, and took them to closed coastal walkway to take pictures. We relaxed for a bit on the boardwalk.

Relaxing at the boardwalk next to the Jeodong Pier.

We were very lucky on the way back to catch this amazing sunset on our way back to our hotel in Dodong.

The beautiful sunset captured on my Google Pixel 2XL.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

We only had a few hours before catching the ferry back to the mainland so we used our time to buy souvenirs.

I really liked the pumpkin bread 🤤
The journey back to the mainland was relatively calm compared to the journey on the way to the island.

Final thoughts: I feel like I didn’t do that much on the island compared to everyone else in the tour. Next time, I want to attempt that intense hike up Seonginbong Peak (성인봉) and go to Dokdo. Ulleungdo is a small island and can easily be explored in a weekend trip. I definitely want to go back again!

You’re not a doctor and that’s okay.

I was teaching my advanced students a lesson about stress. To start a discussion, I asked my students what stresses them out and to give me examples.

They gave me typical answers such as school, boyfriends/girlfriends, exams, etc. Finally one student said family and he gave me an example that his parents are stressful because they want him to go to a good high school then to go to a good college.

Based on his answer, I asked my students if their parents expected them to be a doctor or lawyer. Their reply shocked me! They immediately said, “Teacher! That way of thinking is so old!” and “My parents want me to do whatever I like as long as I go to a good school.”

Growing up in America with a Vietnamese family, I was always expected to become a doctor or lawyer. It doesn’t help that I’m the only person in my family that didn’t major in a STEM related field. I told my students that and one not said the sweetest thing to me:

You’re not a doctor and that’s okay. You’re a successful teacher now and that’s even better.

I cried internally after hearing him say that. I have such sweet middle school students 😍