Friday, August 3, 2012

Leading Up to the Vacation


It has been a tough couple months for me. I am definitely worn out from all the changes and adjusting I have had to do. However, the past two weeks have been especially tough. We had monthly testing, a way to gauge where the students are, plus a few other labor intensive events. This is on top of learning how to teach and figuring out the students. I am my own worst critic and that makes normal critiques very hard to deal with. Constructive criticism is something else I need to learn how to accept.

BUT THIS WEEK IS VACATION! WHOO!

I needed this vacation to unwind and step away from everything. I was thrown into this job and had to learn as I went along. That is nerve wrecking, but it seems to have worked out alright. That is the positive part. The negative part is I am exhausted. So, here we are getting a week off of work. That was a cause for celebration.


Jackie and I started planning for this break over a month ago. We originally wanted to visit Vietnam, on the recommendation of Jackie's friend, but it was a bit too expensive for us this time. Perhaps next year. We decided to go to Jeju Island, just south of South Korea. Jackie was excited to go to a beach and I was...well, I had never been in the ocean before (though I have touched it, once).

First, we thought it would be cool to take be on one of those tours. You know, you go around the island led by a tour guide as part of a group. After looking into different tours around the island, we discovered something: there was a lot of stuff to do, but we did not want to be stuck doing only some of those things while being forced into going to places we are not interested in. So, we had a list of all the things on those different tours. We each wrote down the things we had to do. Then we combined the lists and made a Google Map of the things we both wanted to do (and put on some of the things we would like to do, but did not see as essential).

Booking everything was easy. We got decent priced flights through Eastar Jet and found a good, highly rated hostel through Hostel World. Everything was set. We would leave for Jeju early Sunday morning and stay there until Thursday evening. That left a few days after the trip and, more importantly, one day before to get things ready and relax.

Geocaching

What to do on our day off before the vacation? Jackie found out about this cool thing called "geocaching." Essentially, there are hidden packages, usually pretty small, throughout the world. People look on a map to find different ones. Then they sign their name, sometimes leave a little memento and put it back for the next person. A great site for all this is simply called Geocaching. This is a good video to introduce you to the concept.



Jackie downloaded the official Geocaching app for Android. It costs 10,846 won though (a little less than ten dollars). I found a free one with better ratings for free. The app, c:geo, works even better, though the Geocaching app is alright on its own. Each one uses your phone's gps to find your location and direct you to the geocache box/package. I find c:geo has a better interface and works much better with Google Maps than the official Geocaching app.

Geocaching is a funny experience. You go out excited to find these things, thinking your natural amazingness will make them easily observable to you. Yet, these things have to be hidden well enough so nobody else will think they are trash to be thrown away. That means event the supposedly "easy" ones are rather difficult. We ended up looking for two and not finding them before we spent 30 minutes looking for the last one and...


FOUND IT!

I was excited and Jackie was too. We tried to sign our names in the logbook, but the pencil was not very good. We will go back later and write. There was some cool stuff inside the package. And after hours of finding nothing and being stared at for searching through rocks, dirt and grass, it felt great to actually find one.

We trekked down the mountain and headed out to Mokdong where my apartment is. The plan was to sleep there and go to the airport in the morning. Our flight was at 6:30 a.m. We had to be awake and out the door by five. My apartment is closer to the airport than her's.

We rarely spend time together at that apartment. Her's is so much nicer and larger. The plan was to eat at a Mexican place called Taco Bet (yep, that is no typo) and then head by the E-Mart (a multistory sort of Walmart Superstore) to pick up a couple items for the trip.

Dinner and Shopping

First off, I had a mini menu from Taco Bet that was given to me. But the only thing not in Korean was the food items. We had no idea how to get to the place. Luckily, a man on the bus happened to notice we were struggling to decipher the address on the menu and offered to help. We got off the bus in the right area, but still did not know exactly where to go. After wandering around for awhile, Jackie asked a woman where to find this place and she walked us over there, her daughter trailing behind us all. There are times when you meet some of the nicest people in Seoul. This night was one of those times. That lady did not have to go so far out of her way to take us to that restaurant. We were very fortunate to meet her.


The food was good. It is difficult to find tortillas in Seoul, but they had some pretty good ones. Both our dishes were prepared well and quickly. I would not say it was the greatest Mexican food I have ever had, but, as far as Seoul goes, it really went far.

We headed to E-Mart and picked up most of what we needed (except I am running out of deodorant and it is apparently extremely difficult to find any here). For the first time, I ran into one of my students in the real world. It was awkward. I had no idea what to say. I think "Hey, Edward," pretty much covered it. That is all that came out of my mouth. We stared at each other for a few seconds and he ran off.

Then headed to the apartment. It would be a sleepless night. I thought the subway would get us to the airport in 30 minutes. When I checked, it started running at 6 a.m. and would take an hour. And the buses would not get us there even close to when we wanted to get there. So I spent my night looking for taxi rates and hoping we could find one outside at the curb at 5 a.m. Honestly, I did not think we would be able to make it in time. This is the frustrating thing about not having a car. Never have I worried about getting to an airport on time...

[Will J.D. and Jackie make it to the airport on time? Will they get to Jeju Island? Tune in next time, kids, to hear the conclusion of this exciting story. Same bat time, same bat place]
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