Weekends in October III: Gimhae

October 9-11: Visiting My Host Family in Gimhae

Since I returned to Korea, my previous host family has been telling me to visit or, directly translated from Korean, to come over and play. Finally, the weekend after both host sisters finished their midterms, I made good on my promise. I headed over Friday morning, since it was a Hangul Day, a national holiday.

It was nostalgic taking my all-too-familiar route to the Gimhae light rail. Upon getting off at my stop, I even ran into two of my former students! This resulted in a million double takes before excitement. We were going the same way for a short time, so we chatted before they left to watch a movie. Miss these kids. 

Back at my host family’s apartment, it was like things had hardly changed. My eye caught minute details; I noted that they’d shifted the placement of this or that piece of furniture and were using different dishes. While I placed my backpack in the living room instead of “my” old room, there is a certain ease that comes in simply knowing how things work in a place – and knowing that you are loved and welcome here. However I didn’t have long to reflect, as we soon headed out for lunch at Byeol Mi/별미, a noodle restaurant that in my opinion, is the best in Gimhae (and maybe Busan too). After a very filling lunch, where for once, I didn’t take pictures, we headed over to the Gimhae Amusement Park. This is something I’d didn’t get to all year, but I suppose it is more geared towards kids. My host family and I rushed over with the hopes of catching a musical, but we were a little too late. So instead we explored the park which was filled with Gaya Dynasty replicas, since Gimhae is where the Gaya dynasty was once located.


Above you can see an traditional house, dress – modeled by creepy mannequins that were surprisingly delicate – and wooden scrolls. But the second theme of the park seemed to be turtles. Gimhae’s city mascot is a turtle, so I guess that’s also the reason for things like these:

gimhae_tema_turtle   gimhae_tema_shellless

Note the little girl impatiently waiting for me to just leave already. We also caught a parade before leaving, with participants dressed up in Gaya historical outfits and random things, like clowns. My host family knew two of the participants and thought it was hilarious to see them in costume. That night we were joined by my host dad and had dinner at Su Son Jjajangmyeon/수손짜장면, a (Korean-)Chinese restaurant. We knocked out my Gimhae food bucket list in one day.



The next day I got my hair cut, half-straight permed, and half-regular permed. But in Korea, they’re called “magic straight” and “S-curl”; it’s a good thing my host sister helped me plan it out and explain it to the hairdresser.  The whole process took three hours, but I’d wanted to have my hair cut here in Gimhae because the two times I went last year, this hairdresser cut my hair for free! This time, with a really complicated and labor-intensive style, of course it wasn’t free, but she still gave me a significant discount on the price…which my host mom then promptly jumped in and paid. I protested, but to no avail.

In progress, and after:

s_curl_perm_inprogress  hair_after

After dwaejigukbap /돼지국밥 for lunch (see delicious pot of food above), we drove to Masan about an hour away to visit DotSeom Island. The island’s name means something like “pig island,” apparently named for its shape.


It was a 10 minute ferry ride away and the island itself was very small as well. It didn’t take us long to walk the entire coast. But the scenery was beautiful and so peaceful, the name of the path we took is the Korean onomatopoeia for the sound of soft waves hitting the shore…which I’ve forgotten. Pook pook, maybe? Of course we also took tons of pictures together, but had a hard time finding ones where everyone agreed that they looked good enough to share. So I leave you with a sunset instead:


Oh! And when I left, my host family insisted that I take the Cocomong light rail (a popular Korean cartoon), only available in Gimhae for a limited time. Cocomong is a monkey combined with a sausage. Apparently there is also a robot Cocomong. An adorable ending to my weekend.



A Whirlwind of Everything, part 1

Today was the first day at my new school (aka first day as a legit teacher, aka first day in a real job after graduating)!

Well actually, let me backtrack a little. Yesterday was D-day. Or departure day. Either way it was fitting.

I woke up terrified. Well, maybe just nervous. But throughout the day my emotions ran high and in a constant flux. At the time we had renewees also staying with us (ETAs who were renewing their contract for a second or third year), so the dynamic in our room was already off. If that makes sense.

I have a lot to say in this post, so a lot of this is stream of consciousness. I’m sorry if it’s difficult to read.

So, between my regular roommate, our renewee roommate and I, I woke up first. Having that time to be alone with my thoughts only made me more and more nervous, and I didn’t have access to the usual things in my morning routine – a physical Bible, coffee – because they were all packed up. Once my roommate(s) woke up, however, we could talk, and I felt a lot better.

We had a lot to do first thing in the morning, including moving our luggage and clearing our rooms out for check-out. Goodbye Jungwon dorm room!


After moving around so much without having at breakfast, by the time we got to the cafeteria, I was feeling slightly nauseous and light-headed. No doubt the nerves didn’t help.

We then gathered with our remaining luggage (carry-ons and miscellaneous bags) for meetings and goodbyes. I managed to hold myself together, but only because I cried so much the night before. Ridiculous. But almost everyone was affected Thursday night, especially when our RA Taehwan began to cry as he read us the goodbye letter he’d written. Thinking of it now still makes me tear up. But I’m so fortunate to be having a wonderful experience in both my homestay and my school so far.


Picture-taking, goodbyes, and in the corner…

Surprisingly we had a lot of downtime after breakfast...

…some people used their downtime differently.

Back to Friday… when we FINALLY got to the departure/school-personnel-meeting ceremony, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stand the whole time. Just like in our placement ceremony, we all stood in a large semi-circle around the auditorium called the Sky (on the highest floor), this time with the renewees. I have two people in my province (Gyeongsangnam-do), and one is a renewee I only met that day. We waited in line for our names and schools to be called, and then we were expected to step forward, search the crowd of principals, vice principals and coteachers to see who was standing up, and bow (part of a Korean greeting, or insa). This year, everyone received a small bouquet of flowers, courtesy of Jungwon University, but some schools also brought their own flowers and gifts.

The most memorable was Emily Mann’s school, which featured a short man wearing a pink bunny ear headband and large, very loud party popper (almost) to the face. I really hope someone got pictures, and I can’t wait to hear about her experiences this year.

Good luck Emily!

Good luck Emily!

When my name was finally called, a man with glasses and a bright yellow shirt brought a big bouquet of flowers. He was my Fulbright (or main) coteacher, Mr. Hong. I was teary during almost the whole ceremony anyway, but I was so happy that my school had gotten me flowers. We were told to really memorize our teachers’ faces, because afterwards, at our chief orientation leader’s word, we were supposed to rush into the crowd to go find our school. It was just as chaotic as it sounds, and I began questioning whether or not Mr. Hong had really been wearing a yellow shirt.

But we made it out, and were both very excited to meet each other. After an enormous banquet and a few goodbyes, we left Goesan. It’s a weird feeling, since I realized while in Seoul that I’d become accustomed to our marble mansion/palace/prison at Jungwon. When I was tired, I found myself longing to go back to my dorm room -what? (By the way we visited Seoul last weekend. Pictures, and maybe writing, to come.)

Goodbye Ashley :(

Goodbye Ashley :(

Mr. Hong drove me to Gimhae in his car; it was four plus hours, but we also stopped at a couple rest stops and had snacks. Rest stops in Korea are much nicer than the ones I’ve been to in the US. Everything is there in one spot – giant restrooms, snack stands, restaurants, touristy shops and more. Maybe I’ve only been to janky US rest stops. But the best part was running into Ivan – a fellow ETA going to Busan – and his coteacher. Haha. I was so surprised. It turns out that his coteacher actually lives in Gimhae and teaches in Busan, while Mr. Hong lives in Busan and teaches in Gimhae. Looks I’ll be seeing a lot of you Busan folks. :)