Bulguksa (불국사)

Earlier this year, I worked in my company’s publishing department editing a Korean history book. While a lot of the information blended together because of the extensive detail and use of Korean names, I did learn a little about the Silla Kingdom and its grand history. Among many things, Silla is credited for creating the first unified Korea by conquering the two kingdoms of Baekje (백제) and Goguryeo (고구려). The Silla, an ancient kingdom of Korea, once called the city of Gyeongju its capital, which is partly the reason I wanted to visit.

IMG_1848 Outside the Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal, Chris and I rented a scooter for 25,000 won for three hours. After we picked up a handy map of Gyeongju in English from the tourist center outside the bus terminal, we hopped on our scooter and hit the road.

IMG_1874

Not too long later, we arrived at our destination: a famous temple. Bulguksa (불국사) is the main site to see in Gyeongju. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the biggest temples in Korea. The structure standing today has gone through dozens of renovations, but it was incredible to think that Koreans were on this sacred land more than 1,400 years ago building this very temple.

We skipped seeing the Seokguram Grotto (석굴암) because the weather started to turn on us (check out my sweet rain poncho!). We hopped back on the scooter and headed out to see a sex museum; however, the steep admission of 10,000 won each scared us away.

IMG_1809 IMG_1880 IMG_1818

On our ride back to the bus terminal, I spotted a line of luxury cars parked casually in a coffee shop’s parking lot. We stopped to take a peak (and a handful of photos). To no surprise, we weren’t the only ones enjoying the view.

IMG_1893

Getting to Gyeongju: I took a 50-minute bus ride from Dongdaegu bus terminal. The cost is no more than 4,300 won ($5) each way.

To the students who made my year

My last day of teaching was bittersweet. I was excited for S.E. Asia trip coming up, but sad to leave my students, knowing that I’d likely never see them again. 

IMG_0872
Chan Ho is incredibly bright and even more kind.

One student, Chan Ho, was getting so excited to tell me something that he began to stutter. He couldn’t think of the English. Then finally he stops and says in a very serious tone, “Sarah Teacher, you are the Best English Teacher.” he pauses for dramatic effect, “Of..My…Life.” “Thank you, Chan Ho.”

Vatos Urban Tacos

A Seoul must-stop: Vatos Urban Tacos.

The atmosphere is vibrant and the place is always buzzing with Koreans and foreigners. The margaritas are big in size while the tacos are big in flavor. My personal favorite are the Kimchi Fries.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Vatos’s Kimchi Fries are unbeatable.

Smothered in braised pork carnitas, killer kimchi, cheese, cilantro and onion and sour cream, doused in their own hot sauce, the Kimchi fries are mouth-watering good.

Whether you’re there to chow down on some gourmet tacos, topped with spicy chipotle and seasoned goodness, or just there to drink, Vatos Tacos is the place to be.

 

IMG_6649
A Coronarita will run you $15, but you’ll never look back.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Three urban tacos for less than 11,000 won ($12).

 

Be a Toursit in Kansas: Largest Ball of Twine

A few years back, I visited the world’s largest ball of twine. It was as anti-climatic as you would imagine. It was on my bucket list to be a tourist in my own home state of Kansas.

biggest ball of twine02 biggest ball of twine01Cawker City is home to the largest ball of twine and only 469 people, according to the 2010 Census. The ball measures more than 40 feet in circumference and weighs more than 14,000 pounds. 

 

Hello 2015.

In October 2013, I moved to Daegu, South Korea and started what would be a yearlong journey of teaching English Monday through Friday and traveling every weekend. I met a man in May and quickly fell in love as we explored Korea together. When my contract ended in October 2014, I set out alone for two months traveling through four S.E. Asian countries.

Once I returned to the U.S., I embarked on a two-week road trip through America with Chris, the man I fell for in South Korea. Now, I am packing up my belongings at my parent’s house in Kansas and preparing to move to Georgetown, Texas, a town outside of Austin.

Chris and I admiring Emerald Bay in South Lake Tahoe, California on New Years Eve, December 31, 2014.
Chris and I admiring Emerald Bay in South Lake Tahoe, California on New Years Eve, December 31, 2014.
As I settle into my life stateside, my goal this year is to blog about my time in Korea, my trip to Cambodia, my weekend in Shanghai, my adventures in Japan, Thailand and Myanmar, and continue to push myself to be honest, open and informative. And, of course, plan for my next trip…

Collecting your pension

One thing I did not mention in my first two posts about applying for a job in Korea is that my job includes a pension plan. The pension is on top of the salary, severance pay, round-trip airfare, health insurance and furnished apartment. Not bad, eh?

The pension is called a lump-sum pension refund. If you qualify, a small amount of money is taken out of your paycheck each month and matched by your employer. Unfortunately, my British and Kiwi coworkers pay into the pension yet do not qualify to receive the pension at the end of their contracts, yet Americans and Canadians can expect to receive their lump-sum pension refund four to five weeks after ending their contract.

 

That is what 9 million won looks like in 50,000 won notes. Not too shabby.
That is what 9 million won looks like in 50,000 won notes. Not too shabby.

My pension is meant to be around 1.6 million won (or $1,550)**  after working in Korea for 12 months. For me, the best part about this money is that it was an added “savings” account for me. While I was able to save about 59% of my paycheck, this is added savings that I did not have to account for.

Collecting your lump-sum pension refund is easy. The woman in the office in Daegu speaks English. Some male foreign teachers have tried to snag her number, so she is good looking, too. I recommend visited the office four weeks before your flight out of Korea to give you time in case you’re missing documents.

It is an easy trip to the National Pension Service Office.

Be sure to bring:

  • Passport (original)
  • Alien Registration Card
  • Flight ticket (should be within one month of departure date)
  • If you want your money transferred into your KEB account, bring your KEB bank account passbook
  • If you want the money transferred into your home country’s bank account, bring the following information: bank’s address, phone number, account number, routing number, and a copy of a bank statement.

Where’s the National Pension office in Daegu? 
Beomeo Station (범어역), on the green line. The LIG building is between exit 1 and 4. It is a huge building, you cannot miss it.  The office is on the 11th floor.
If you want to be lazy and take a taxi (you are about to get 1.5 million won, so you can afford to splurge) Tell the taxi: 범어역 출구 1번으로 가주세요 – (Boh-Moh-Yuck-Chool-Goo-Eel-Bohn-Euh-Roh-Gah-Choo-Say-Yoh)

Phone: (053) 750-9180
Address: 11th Floor, LIG Bldg., 712 Dalgubeol-daero, Suseong-gu, Daegu

 

** UPDATE: In Mid-November, $1,900 was deposited into my Bank of America account.

Korea Burn

IMG_2091

Korea Burn was held on 4th of July weekend in the town of Taean, which is on the east coast a few hours south of Seoul. I arrived late Friday night on the Enjoy Korea bus. Enjoy Korea is a solid travel company ran by an awesome American girl, Stacey. She has done a great job putting together trips and packages for low-stress, high-satisfaction fun. I highly recommend going on an Enjoy Korea trip.

IMG_2081

<

The Burn was something I was really looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. My friends from Cheongju put together an awesome themed Camp of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

This incredibly talents guy made a fire breathing Jaguar Shark.
This incredibly talents guy made a fire breathing Jaguar Shark.

While costumes are not required, it is one of those things you will wish you had put some time into a costume. Korea Burn is an event where the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. The biggest lesson from Korea Burn is BRING BUGSPRAY.

IMG_0218

Chris ordered this headdress off of Etsy in preparation for the event.

Teaching in Sangin

IMG_0482

My coworkers and good friend Rikus, who the students call Matt Teacher, went on vacation for a week. It was during middle school testing, which is a time I do not have classes but instead work on preparing test questions or work in my school’s publishing department.

Covering Rikus’s classes was a welcomed surprise because the students are a few years younger than my 12- to 14-year-old students. There were loads of differences between teaching these different age groups.

IMG_0517

First, the students were incredibly kind and took the time to say hello. The students were happy, carefree, not stressed and seemed to enjoy being at academy (or at least better at hiding their dismay).

“Me! Me! Me!” was exclaimed when I asked,”Who wants to read the first paragraph?” It was a welcomed change from the middle schoolers averting eye contact when it came time to be called on.

IMG_0498