Friday, September 18, 2015

5 things to do on a rainy Busan day

Rain is brilliant. Let me rephrase that: rain is brilliant when you have the right shoes, a big enough umbrella and best of all - when you can stay home with a steaming cup of Ramen noodles, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and a blanket. 

Yesterday Busan saw a bit of rain and I found myself thinking of all the things I would do under cloud-cover. If you're planning on teaching in Korea, here are 5 things to do in Busan, when it rains. #YouAreWelcome

1. Busan’s Trick Eye Museum

Some things for you to do in Busan, Korea, when it rains
Aamena, Tarryn and I appreciating art. 
The museum is quite a treat if you’re looking for a chance to interact with the art. Step into, step on, stand beside, lie down and alongside the 3D images. I would advise that you go with a mate or two; somebody needs to hold the camera and/or pose with you while you're in the giant sea-monster's grip! Tip: Selfie sticks won’t do you, or the pictures justice.
  • Directions: From Jagalchi Subway, exit 7, walk straight out of the subway. Take the first left. Walk one block- the Museum is in the building on your left, on the 2nd block. OR see the map here
  • It’s open from 10:00 - 20:00.
  • Admission: 10,000won per adult.

2. Spa Land

I’ve written about my scrub-experience here, but if you're looking for a day of relaxation minus the skin smarting scrub, head to Spa Land anyway! It's on the must do things in Busan.
  • Directions: Take the green subway line to the Centum City stop, get out at exit 2. You will see signs directing you.
  • Hours: 06:00 - 24:00
  • Admission: 15,000won during the week and 18,000won over the weekend and on holidays.

3. Busan Museum

Wearing a Hanbok in Korea, traditional clothing
Royalty for the day. 

Busan Museum art work
Stunning designs after we learnt how to Roof- Tile Rub.
I thoroughly enjoyed strolling through this museum and peeking into Korean history. There are modern Exhibition Halls filled with relics and a Cultural Experience Hall. The Experience Hall was my favourite! Here you have an opportunity to get your hands dirty by doing Roof-Tile Rubbing and playing dress-up in traditional Korean Hanboks (dresses).

I’ve found it a bit challenging to sometimes find souvenirs in Busan, but the Museum also has a Museum Shop for you to peruse.
  • Directions: We got lost, but we took a cab from Daeyeon Station, exit 3. If you walk via the UN Memorial Cemetery, you’re good.
  • Hours: 09:00 - 19:00.
  • Admission: Free (There is a small charge if you decide to do the Roof-Tile Rubbing).

4. Cinema

Have you been to a cinema in Korea as yet madam/sir? If not, I suggest you go on a rainy day! I quite like observing and taking in my surrounds; the cinema does not disappoint. 

The first time I EVER walked into a cinema here in Korea, I was amazed by the very sweet smell in the air. It's from the different flavored popcorn you can get: caramel flavored, to onion flavored… which ended up having a sweet taste to it too! 

The seating arrangement is the same as South Africa- you are assigned seats. English movies are played with Korean subtitles.

The best moments for me, as a teacher in Korean, have been when English speakers may laugh at a joke in the movie, but we are the ONLY ones laughing because the Korean translation may have been different. Other times, Korean folk are laughing, while I’m sitting there wondering what I missed. To book tickets in advance or see what’s playing, check out CineInKorea.

5. Busan English Library

Busan English Library has a number of books to readWhen last did you visit a library to sniff the crisp pages? It’s been ages since I’ve made my way to the Busan English Library mainly because I’m reading my own books at the moment, but I thought I'd share this gem with you. 

The library spans across one floor. There is a sitting and study area, computers, lockers for your belongings and librarians to assist. 

Signing-up is done in the library and you are issued with a card to use for each visit. Five books can be taken out for two weeks. I'd say this is a 'low-key' thing to do in Busan, but still a must. Get more info here
  • Directions: Take the Green Line to the Buam stop. Walk out of exit 1, the library will be in the large building on your right.
  • Open from 09:00 - 21:00 on weekdays and 09:00 - 18:00 on Saturdays.

What do you like to get up to on a rainy day in your town or city? 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Teaching in Korea: surviving in the classroom

Helpful tips on surviving teaching in Busan, Korea

The first few weeks as a teacher in Korea can be pretty hectic. I remember hanging onto as many tips as I could in the beginning of my stay here. 

Now, as new teachers arrive from all over the world, I've had some folk asking about life in Korea and about the classroom setting. More specifically, there have been questions about teaching in Korea and how to survive. 

So I asked a few friends who have been here for over a year to give me  their insider knowledge on surviving in the classroom. 

Kristen - New Zealand 

Tip 1: “I think something some people forget is that your co-teacher is in charge. Make sure to ask them what is expected of you. Sometimes you may not agree with everything your co-teacher does; try say your opinion and have your input.

If they are adamant about something, my advice is to let it go. Let. It. Go. Things will change last minute; you will be told things last minute, your co-teacher may change the rules of your activity in the middle of class. Just be flexible. It will make your life a lot easier.”

Tip 2: “Make sure you have someone supportive to talk to at the end of the day. I had a hard time settling in. Not with Korean life, but with school life. What made it harder was that a lot of my fellow EPIK teachers did not understand why I struggled to keep up with the workload and why I was so stressed.

My lifesaver was Skyping my mum at the end of each day. So find a person who is supportive, understanding and encouraging. So that at the end of the day, they will remind you of how much you’ve achieved and how well you are doing.”

Keisha - America

Tip 1: "Be friends with your students. You want to have a really good relationship with your students but on a teacher-student level. Don’t be too friendly with them as you still want to have that authority."

Tip 2: "You want to have good communication between you and your co-teachers. That’s really important."

Anonymous - America

Tip: “Be friendly and engage others. Don't be passive in thinking people will come to you. This was especially true for teachers at my school. When I first arrived, it was said that only my co-teachers spoke English pretty much. Actively trying to talk to [other] teachers resulted in me finding out that many teachers could [speak English]. This developed relationships that were wonderful and helped make my time at work more enjoyable and supported."

Me - South Africa

Tip: “Try to learn the names of your students as quickly as possible. There is something really great about your teacher/friend/colleague being able to pronounce your name correctly. 

In the beginning the kids laughed at me while I tried daily to get their names right, but they took control in trying to correct me. This helped build a rapport with my students and it showed them that being wrong in English class is ok. It’s trying constantly and not giving-up that matters.”

Do you have any tips for the new teachers in Korea? 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A close (Korean) scrub in Spa Land

A day spent in Spa Land, Busan, Korea

During my lunch break I saw a video of Conan O’Brien going to a Korean Spa for the first time. His over exaggerated reactions in the Spa made me giggle as it reminded me of my first time. The best part of the experience was getting scrubbed from ear to big-toe by a middle-aged Korean lady in black lacy underwear. 

You might be thinking: what are Korean body scrubs? Is the Korean spa/scrub treatment intense? Well, here's my tale...  

After being persuaded my friend Aamena, Kendra (another brave soul) and I dropped our winter clothing and fears. With nothing but a hand towel to hide my bits, we stepped into the wonder that is Shinsegae's Spa Land.

You’ll hear many tales of the amazing baths, saunas and rooms you can relax in, but for me, the Scrubbing Room was the most memorable. 

After entering the public bathing area with Kendra and Aamena, I booked a scrubbing-slot and took my naked self for a soak while waiting my turn to get scrubbed.   

While trying to embrace my complete nudity (and the nudity of those around me), I was finally called for my my first Korean body scrub. I scurried towards the room and was met by a middle-aged woman in her black underwear. She took my little towel and threw it to the side as I whimpered a little and tried to stay focused. She pointed at the bed with a plastic cover and I slowly hopped on.

As I tried to not slip off the already soapy slab, a woman I had chatted to earlier was being scrubbed on the slab next to me. Her eyes were closed, she had a look of calm on her face and all the while another aunty was scrubbing her vigorously. 

I laid on my back, arms tucked close to my bare body and legs firmly closed. I felt like a sheep going in for the slaughter. My eyes darted from the methodical movements of the scrubber at the next bed, to the dimly lit lights above me and before I knew it, my friendly scrubber threw warm water over me. Were the odds going to be in my favour?

Beginning at my face, my scrubber wiped and then applied a face mask. I kept thinking that her belly button was waaaay too close to my face as I could almost see the detail lining her panties! She had seen too many naked souls to bother about my space issues and continued working. Her professional attitude and swift movements started to quieten my anxious mind and before I knew it, I started to enjoy the experience.

From my face, she began to work on my feet and legs. Her hands, hidden in hand-loofas began to scrub the surface of my body. Legs were bent and separated, toes were parted, and my tummy got a good working too. I tried to not pull away from the pressure of each hand as she scrubbed away dead skin cells and any inhibitions I had left. When it came to my bosom, neck and shoulders, I found it hard to stay dead still as this was getting more familiar than a family Christmas lunch. I think I squealed a little each time she threw my arms behind my head to scrub my sides, or when she pulled my legs apart to access the inner thigh. 

After being flipped onto my tummy, the scrubbing lady left the soles of my feet, legs, derriere, back and neck smarting. While my cheek connected with the plastic bed, I noticed small greyish, almost noodle-looking particles on the bed next to me. It then dawned on me: these were my dead skin cells. There’s something disgusting and satisfying about knowing just how clean you are, but knowing exactly how that dirt looks.  

After warm water was tossed over me once again, I was handed a new white towel by my scrubbing-pro and billed 20 000won. I left her feeling pretty proud of myself and feeling oh-so-clean! Click here for more info about Shinsegae's Spa Land, if you pluck up the courage to go! 

Have you been for a Korean body scrub? Was it awkward for you?

hazel tales

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mornings and memories

I love mornings. I love waking with the sun (in Summer), the crisp air that refreshes your sleepy lungs and the memories attached to this time of day.

In South Africa, waking at 5am to the gentle sunrise, the chirp of the birds and my grandfather’s gentle knock on my bedroom door, asking if I wanted to go walking with him, are some of my dearest memories.
He calls me "Sunshine" but if only he knew what a
 light he's been in my life.

In my town, those who know our family, also know the familiar sight of my grandfather every morning, marching along briskly in his white shorts and t-shirt. His white socks are pulled up, his worn takkies (trainers) are firmly on and his cap is pulled over his short curly hair.

Growing up, you would find me (on and off) walking at his side. In primary school I would ride my bike alongside him, in high school I sometimes ran and on each return from Varsity or work, I tried to go with him a few times.

Here in Korea however, I find that I am losing my love of the early hours to being ‘busy’, or to quickly checking my phone in the evenings and then finding myself I’m exhausted after an hour or two of phone usage. I’ve slowly started making changes to my morning routine here in Korea to find my balance again.

The smartphone: I place my phone and alarm clock out of arm’s reach. I’ve been getting a little frustrated with myself lately for how much I stare at my S4 screen in the morning and evenings, so it’s been banished to the table across from my bed. The phone goes to bed at 8pm and I give it attention around 7:30am on my way out the door the next day.

My alarm clock: My fire-engine alarm-clock is also placed on the table. When it goes off in the morning I’m forced to leave my cocoon and turn it off. In the event that I dash back into bed, the back-up alarm goes off 20 mins later, and then 10mins after that on my phone. Sigh… when you can’t trust yourself. My grandfather is currently 79 and he's been waking up at 5am everyday without an alarm clock! If he can do it, so can I! 

Making my bed: After a sip of water (or the rudeness of the second/third alarm) I make my bed. I’ll never get back into a just-made bed. It’s my thing. I just can’t. I’ll sleep on top of it though! Hahaha! A made bed just makes the tiny space feel less crowded and I leave the flat a little happier. 

Breakfast is a must: I can just hear my grandfather saying to a high school me: “Nadia, we’re not leaving this house until you sit down and finish your breakfast. Don’t rush.” Sitting down with my old man and chatting about the day ahead calmed me and allowed me to give my brain fuel for the day ahead.

Living life as a solo expat here in Korea, there have been some alterations. I'll try put an egg on the stove to boil and then hop into the shower. While having a good scrub and singing session in the shower, breakfast is on the go. After the wash, creams, hair and make-up, I’m ready to sit down to my boiled-egg and toast. Add a cup of freshly brewed coffee from my moka pot and my morning has gone from ‘normal’ to ‘flipping brilliant!’ My grandfather would be proud. 

Two chores a day: There were many times back home when I would moan and complain about doing chores, but how necessary it has become when you live solo. I've been trying something new and it's working! I try and complete two chores before leaving for school. Simple. This can by anything from washing my dishes, sweeping, taking out my trash or when I’m cheating, watering my little cactus. It’s pretty awesome knowing I’ve accomplished a few things in the morning, as opposed to coming home to a mini crash-site. 

A moment to pray: My grandfather’s morning prayers were said during the first 10mins of the morning walk. During this time I knew that I was not to talk to him while he and God had a few words. With my good example marching and praying at my side, I also took this time to pray and be thankful. After his chat with the Maker, we walked, spoke, laughed or enjoyed the morning silence as our takkies hit the pavement and the sun continued to stain the road ahead of us. 

Walking to work: A walk to my school means I get to see things I would otherwise miss if I were on a bus or the train. “Hello Nadia teacher!” is a pretty great thing to hear from a tiny human on a morning walk. Sometimes there's the exchange of a deep bow and a large wave/grin with an old lady that holds a stop sign in one of the roads. About half-way to my school I’m also blessed to see a group of about 11 senior citizens sitting outside a CU-store, chatting and giggling. Sometimes you’ll see them in their hiking gear and passing around a flask of something piping hot. When I pass, we all wave at each other and again I bow and say hello in Korean. I love guessing where they are going at 7:45am, how they all met and what's in the flask!

Are you a morning person? How do you inject calm and happiness into your morning routines?Share some of your tips with me. ^^


Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Wine Clubs and Markets in Busan

I’ll admit, I’ve been off the screen for a second, but I’m back! What better way to kick Qwerty back into action than by talking about Busan’s Wine Club which has given new meaning to my “wine o’clock” and Busan’s first Foreigner’s Market.

“LET us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.” Plautus

The Korea Wine Club has finally arrived in Busan. The first event was held last year in Table Talk English Cafe in Kyungsung (KSU). A few friends and I made ourselves pretty and excitedly made our way to the first event. Like the rookie I am, I failed to read the details of the poster on the Wine Club’s page beforehand and I didn't RSVP. My punishment? Pay more at the door than those who were wiser. Rookie move indeed. After payment, we received a name tag and an 'ice-breaker sort of page'  to spark conversation with fellow wine-lovers. 

Throughout the evening, wine-carrying servers kept topping-up our glasses and our habits. If asked, they grinned cheerily and gave a short description of the wine they were serving. I met new faces, tasted new wines and vowed to attend the next wine event. I remember leaving the event with merriment in my heart and red-stained lips. 

The second wine club event was held over New Years Eve and food was included this time round. It was held at Namaste Restaurant in Haeundae. After learning my lesson, I sent in an RSVP ahead of time and arrived to a larger group of club members, the smell of unlimited curry and rice and of course wine! With a glass in one hand, friends on both sides and a tummy full, we brought in 2015 with some style.

If you’re looking to meet new people, break in your new heels/throw on a bow-tie and of course hold a glass of red lovingly, check out the Korea Wine Club here. They host wine events around Korea and were the hosts of Busan's two. I’ve heard there may be another event coming up for the Busan crowd in February, so remain vigilant!
You guessed it, all homemade. 

While typing this, I’m nibbling slowly on a slice of homemade brown bread, homemade hummus, lettuce, cheese and ham (the last three were made in the shop ^^). I got these homemade goodies from Busan’s first Foreigners Market which was held over the weekend. What a treat! 

The small market was held in HQ bar in Gwangan and began at 1pm. It got quite tight in the venue as people tried-on, smelled and tasted the items on display. I bought a samoosa and spicy chicken, four body scrubs, two massive slices of the brown bread, red pepper garlic hummus and a salsa. Best part? All homemade! My favourite by far was the hummus, bread and the body scrubs. 

Keen? Check out the Facebook page here for the next market coming up in Feb or find it on Facebook by typing: "Busan's Second Foreigner Market". 

Homemade body scrubs ^^

Did you go to any of these events? What did you think? And with that: stay warm, stay merry ^^.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chops and trims in Korea - Busan hairdresser tales

I sat in the chair, worried. I watched my Korean hairdresser in Busan closely via the mirror as she dipped her hands into my wet fro and began to part it into sections. If this experience was new to her, she wasn’t letting on. Her movements and slightly flared nostrils indicated she was frustrated with me after our longer than necessary conversation about if I wanted my hair ‘trimmed’or ‘chopped’. Then again, we were having this conversation in broken English/Korean. I still liked this hairdresser.

Natural hair trim in a Busan, Korea hairdresser - yay!
Split ends finally sorted!
Section, comb, snip. Section, comb, snip. As she worked, I spotted staff in the background watching us. I also spotted them watching my mate Keisha who was next to me. Keisha, being the braver of us two, decided on a big chop. I kept thinking, 'FINALLY, we're getting our natural hair cut in a Korean hairdresser'.

A failed hairdresser attempt...

Before striking gold with Leekaja Hairbis, we had walked into another hairdresser just down the road. Shooo… that can only be termed as a complete eyeball experience. When I was called to sit in the chair, I whipped the band from my hair and let my mane burst free. The Korean hairdresser looked at my hair, and according to Tarryn and Keisha, the look on her face was priceless. In a panic, she walked away to her colleague, they discussed a few things in low tones and she came back saying in Korean and English, “No, no, sorry, sorry.” Willing to try anyway, I said in English, “it’s ok! We can try. I will show you.” Show her? Really Nadia? As if I’m skilled in the art of trimming and snipping hair the size of mine. Slightly disheartened, I pulled my hair back into a bun and we left.
The second hairdresser we tried, did not hesitate for a second. Our bags were placed in a locker, coats hung up and we were led to the wash area. My hair was washed and conditioned with a FANTASTIC head massage thrown in. Bless you Korea for that…Bless you. I then got a cut/trim. Even though they didn't moisturize or style my hair after blow-drying it, I don’t fault my hairdresser for this. I reckon she deserves a round of slow clapping considering she was willing to try. Hair-care here in Korea has been a concern for me as an expat. It was exciting to find someone ready to try after I had finally put my nerves and concerns aside.

The before-photo, before Keisha's Busan hairdresser experience
The lovely Keisha before her big-chop.
Keisha's natural hair looking good, after her first time in a Busan, Korea hairdresser
Big-chop success!

How much is a hairdresser in Busan?

Will I go back? You bet your split ends I will. Both Keisha and I paid 20000won/R200/$20 each for the cut. Should you decide that the time has come to trim/cut/chop, here are their details:

Directions to the hairdresser we went to:

Take the Orange Subway Line to the PNU (Busan National University) stop. Come out exit 3 and turn right. Take your second left into Busandaehak-ro. Leekaja Hairbis is on your right.

Salon details: 413-16, Jangjeon- 3 Dong, Keumjung-Gu, Busan-Si, Korea 
051.583.1060- 1006.

There is a branch opening in Deokcheon! Walk straight out of exit 9, and it’s above the Starbucks.

Do you know of any other hairdressers that attempt to cut/trim/treat/style afros in Busan or around Korea? Let me know! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Keeping count

At the end of an activity in class, I will either clap or count the kids down in an attempt to get their attention. If they’re chit-chattering like angels (which is rare), I count backwards from five. 

By zero they’ve turned in their seats and their eyes are on either myself or Co. If it’s quite rowdy, the clap works. As a teacher in Korea, you have to make a plan! My (ingenious) clap song/chant/activity goes as follows:

Me: “Clap your hands once!”

Class: *One clap*

Some smartie kid in the back: *Claps five times*

Me: “Clap your hands twice!”

Class: *Claps twice*

Me: “Clap your hands three times!” (At this point most of the kids are clapping along.)

Class: *Claps three times*

I’ll usually repeat the activity to ensure that I have their full attention before moving on. With the little ones this can take some time. I'm happy to note that we now have better clapping activities than this one... phew. 

Learning to count in Korean classes, Busan

Learning the Korean language:

Counting. Who knew it would become a focal point in my life? I count my kids down, I count claps, I count my blessings and in previous posts I’ve been counting the number of days I’ve lived in Korea. My greatest hustle now is learning how to count all over again; this time learning to count like one of my third graders in my new language- Korean/Hangeul.

I like language in use. Using my skills for daily activities like grocery shopping, speaking to a neighbour or even to the kids helps it stick. When we use a funny video at the beginning of a lesson, or if I draw two stickmen with a romantic story, it’s awesome seeing the kids more interested and wanting to learn a new English expression. Ok maybe not the romance one for the little ones but it sure worked for the teacher's class! Tap into aht motivates them and we are moving! Don't tap into it and you'll be sure to see drool, pen-tapping and the backs of heads. Trust me on this. I know. My motivation? Wanting to know how much the veggie man wants from me when I buy his dusty carrots or how much is that Americano? I’m tired of holding out a few notes and coins after guessing what he wants, only for him to count the correct amount in my hand anyway and give me the change. Lame Nadia. Lame.

Learning Korean for beginners - a crash course! 

Last week in my bi-weekly Korean class, we were practicing reading and writing numbers in Hangeul. So I figured that for the purpose of revision, you dear reader and interested Korean expat, would get a short counting/number education too. 

Right. For me to even TRY and think about writing out 7396 in Korean, I needed to get my head around the words/writing of 10, 100, 1000 and 10 000.

Learning to count in Korean as a beginner
*Buddy Tarryn made awesome pics to accompany her notes and these images stick really well in my head when I have to attempt quick number thinking. She drew a ship, a bird's beak, cheon... and a man.*

This past weekend, buddy Tarryn and I practiced the number system. With Korean words rolling off our inexperienced tongues, it was time to start combining numbers into something bigger and sexy like 7396. What works for me when trying to figure out a number bigger than 9 is to break it down straight away.   












sah bek

pal shib









chil chon

sahm bek

gu shib


This website over here will give you a better idea regarding the two counting/number systems in Korea. Anyway, that's all from me this week. I hope you're motivated to keep on learning the Korean language - let me know how it goes :)  

Do you have any tips to improve counting in Korean?