Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A great weekend in Andong!

Andong is one of those places that you never seem to hear about but once there you are amazed that no-one had mentioned it sooner!

We took a trip down to Andong for the International Mask Dance Festival which was great! It was full of people and there were many strange smells and delicious things to eat!

But I am getting ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning.

Oliver and I took our first ever train in Korea and it ROCKED. It was a similar price (for first class) to the buses and it got to Andong about an hour faster so a bargain if you ask me!

Another bonus was that we were the only two people in the first class compartment which made it that much sweeter. We got to see Korea's beautiful landscape in whole new light while the sun's rays warmed us on the chilly Autumn morning. Aaaaaah, it was a perfect start to an awesome weekend!

Once settled in Andong we hit the streets to get  a feel for the place and we both fell in love with the market which was quite big but was (for the most part) covered by awnings...And we also found freshly baked muffins....Mmmmmm!

Once we found the festival we were immersed in it! We bought some souvenirs, looked at some photographic artwork (which has inspired us to try and do an exhibition of Oliver's work...I think his work is totally worth it, don't you?), we also watched the mask dance and just strolled around in relative bliss.

We decided to take a late bus to a Hanoe Village which is a village where the old-school style of housing has been preserved and people still live and farm there! It was sooooooooooooooo amazing!

We got to the village quite late on Saturday because the bus ran into some traffic but we did get there just in time to catch the traditional fire works display! Man was it cool....They had three traditional types of fireworks which were displayed....the first looked similar to fairy-lights as they had pockets of coal attached to a wire that extended from the river bed to a rock face, the second were egg shaped lanterns that floated down the river and the big finale was massive fire balls that were drop from the edge of the cliff face into the water. It was quite a spectacle!(My camera was not strong enough to capture the awesomeness of the fireworks, will have to wait for Ollie's pics)

We then had to rush back to get the last bus going down town! We got on the bus, two seats in the back left corner. We were both relieved that we had seats but a bit unnerved by the fact that we really really needed to wee!

To our amazement the bus driver kept piling people into the bus. There were as many people standing as there were sitting. It was tight and I still really REALLY needed to go to the loo. The bus driver then sat there for a excruciating 15 minutes trying to squeeze more people on the bus. By this time I was honestly afraid that I might wet myself and we hadn't even left yet. YIKES. All in all I made the half an hour ride without making a mess but my word that is closest to torture I think I have ever come! Cringe!

Anyway, off my bladder and back to Andong! Hanoe village was so spectacular that we just had to go back there the following day (even though there were a series of other places we wanted to see, like the Soju museum). We spent the whole of Sunday just walking through the old village taking in how peaceful it was. We saw more birds and insects there on Sunday than I have seen in the rest of Korea so far.

So Oliver and I have made a pact to return to Andong so that we can buy some more of those fabulous muffins, go to the Soju museum, and possibly visit Hanoe Village again!!!
Post by Claudia

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


For those not 'in the know', the title of this post is 'Chuseok'. Chuseok is one of Korea's biggest holidays. This along with 설날 (Seollal) are the two biggest holidays in Korea, and apparently they are bigger than Christmas!! We'll see.

Chuseok is a holiday that is celebrated for the most part within each family. It is a traditional holiday that runs along similar veins to the American Thanksgiving Day holiday. It is in essence a harvest festival in which thanks is given to the ancestors for a good harvest. During the 3 day celebration, the ancestor's gravesites (or tombs) are cleaned and tidied up, and offerings are made to the ancestors to show respect and to show gratitude for the good harvest.

It comes as a bit of surprise then that this years harvest was apparently among the worst in many years (decades even), this is obvious when one realises that current fruit and vegetable prices sitting at between 3-5 times the price of previous years. Nevertheless this didn't spoil the event in the least!

Chuseok is a relatively private holiday, celebrated with family and many foreigners are left to their own accord to do something over these 3 days. This year the 3 days of Chuseok fell on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Many foreigners took off  Monday or Friday (or both) and made themselves a cosy mid-term holiday. Claudia and myself didn't get these extra days off but we were lucky enough to be invited to by one of my co-teachers, Sunny, grandmother's home for the entire 3 day period.

So off it was, to a ridiculously busy bus terminal on the Tuesday morning, to head off to Jin Bu, which is where Sunny's grandmother lives. This having been Chuseok, the buses were packed to bursting point, which resulted in us having a not-so-comfy 1 1/2 hour standing bus ride! Not recommended!

Climbing off the bus, we were both pretty keen on some seat time, although this was all going to change over the next 3 days!

Sunny's parents came to pick us up from the bus terminal, and after packing our luggage in the boot of the car, Sunny made us recite to her parents the Korean phrases she had taught us ('Nice to meet you' and 'Thank you for inviting us' were among the more popular ones).

After a brief 5 minute stint in the car, we took our luggage out of the boot and headed into the house, to be greeted by about a dozen strange Korean faces. We didn't know these people from a bar of soap, but again, out of courtesy, Sunny made us recite our lines (this time we threw in a 'My name is...' and 'I'm from South Africa). We were immediately well received by the whole family which made us feel a lot more at ease with this overwhelming situation. After throwing our bags down in the sleeping room, which thanks to the amazing Korean hospitality, was given to us, we immediately took part in one of the traditional activities...making Seongpyeon.

Seongpyeon is one the Korean foods traditionally made around Chuseok. A thick dough is made from glutinous rice powder and various other ingredients. This dough is then coloured using some other additives (we had purple, made with grapes, yellow, made with pumpkin, and green, made with various herbs). The idea is to take pieces of this dough, fill it with one of several ingredients, among them chestnut and some or other bean, and then the roll up this piece of dough and make it look somewhat pretty. There is a saying in Korea that if you can make pretty Seongpyeon, you will have beautiful children. Let's just say neither Claudia nor myself will have anything resembling human babies if that's anything to go by...and God forbid we should have kids together...oh the horror!

These were the Seongpyeon done by the professionals who I am sure will have amazingly beautiful children!

The finished pieces of Seongpyeon are then thrown into a large steamer and steamed until perfect. Traditionally they are steamed on a bed of pine needles, although we did not do this with ours. Nevertheless, Seongpyeon is a scrumptious, traditional Korean food!

After a few hours of sitting on the floor doing this, and observing the other ladies cooking like madmen in the kitchen, it was time to eat. A mealtime during Chuseok is really something to behold. The amount and variety of food that is available is just staggering. It was a meal of ambrosial proportions! After the eating is done, the women are back in the kitchen cleaning up and washing pots and pans and dishes and chopsticks and spoons and all sorts of other odds n ends! The kitchen was nothing but a non stop hustle! And before we get angry emails from girls out there saying "you're being sexist...,etc.", this is the reality of things. There are still very real gender roles in Korean society, and they definitely come to the fore during holidays like Chuseok, when it is the women's job to make food and clean dishes, while the men relax and watch TV or chat about whatever tickles their fancy.

With full bellies and smiles on our faces we thanked all the cooks and moved on to our next activity...playing games with the kids. 2 of Sunny's cousins were at this family gathering, Joshua who is 13 and David who is 11, and they took it upon themselves to introduce us to a traditional Korean board game called Yut. It's a game played with wooden sticks on a board game, which involves a lot more strategy than it makes one think. I am not going to go into the finer details of the game right here, but rather will direct those interested to this very detailed Wikipedia entry.

As the saying goes, time flies when you're having fun, and so before we knew it, the games were over and packed away and we found ourselves around the dinner table once again feasting on a magnificent array of delectable foods!

"Maagie vol, oogies toe", is the best way for me to describe what transpired next. It is an Afrikaans saying that literally means: "Stomach full, eyes close". And that is what we did, we had a great nights sleep.

The next morning we woke to the sound of many people talking, and of course the, by now standard, sound of clinking pots and pans and frying delicacies. Mmmmm. What a great way to wake up! After a quick shower it was time for breakfast, which needless to say was once again amazing. I must point out to fellow westerners that breakfast in Korea is not what we are used to. There is no cereal, yogurt and boiled eggs. No, breakfast here consists of the same soups, broths, fried noodles, rice and other food items that are eaten for dinner or lunch, a little strange but delicious either way.

Sunny decided it would be a good idea to take us to the near by Oh De San mountain park, and I tell you, it was not a good idea, it was a spectacular idea! What an amazing place. Korea as a whole is a achingly beautiful country, and this area is definitely one of the highlights. We walked around for a couple of hours, also visiting the nearby temple. Visiting a Buddhist temple planted smack-bang in the middle of a beautiful mountain range on a crispy Korean morning is something that everyone should aspire to doing at least once in their lives! Amazing!

Head back home...time for lunch. At this point I shouldn't have to tell you what an amazing feats this was! Simply awesome, much like all the other meals.

We spent the last couple of hours milling about town, with 2 of Sunny's high school friends, and enjoying an amazing cup of coffee at one of the local coffee shops (the best cup of Coffee so far in Korea!!). After enjoying a great dinner and playing some more games, it was off to bed, only to wake up again to the hustle and bustle of a busy Korean house at Chuseok!

The morning was spent saying goodbyes to the various branches of the family, and wishing them all goodbye and a safe journey back home. Claudia and myself also said goodbye in our own freshly learnt, broken Korean phrases. With all the goodbyes done, it was our turn to head off to the bus terminal, which we did in a huge hurry, realising that our bus was about to leave. We got there as the bus was leaving! All's well that ends well they say, and I can speak for myself and for Claudia here, Chuseok was an amazing experience, and we are most grateful to Sunny and her awesome family for letting us experience it with them!

To add one more thing, Chuseok is a time of giving...many gifts are given, and children are more often than not given money by their relatives...big smiles all round. There is nothing new about gifts being given, but one thing that is different is the types of gifts that are given. Walk into any store before Chuseok, and you will see shelf after shelf covered in gift packs. These gift packs range from tea assortments to packs of canned food.

 This is the tea pack that Claudia received from her school.

There is nothing strange about receiving tea as a gift, but SPAM! Wow, that's weird. No, apparently it isn't. Spam(or canned meat) is a very highly regarded gift in Korea. No joke! It seems that the origin of Spam runs back a few decades to the post war years in Korea, when fresh meat was almost impossible to come by and refrigeration was also basically non-existent. Spam was then considered a huge luxury item, and this seems to still hold true today.

There are large varieties of gift packs that can be given, some containing an assortment of toothbrushes and toothpastes, other with Soaps and bath items (I'm not talking bath salts and body scrub, I'm talking straight forward, old school bar soap!). The variety is endless, and people buy these items left right and centre as gifts for family and relatives.

This was is the gift given to me by my director, and as you can see it contains bottles of cooking oil, cans of tuna, and yes, the great canned meat, Spam!

Chuseok was a fantastic experience, and I am glad that I am currently living in the 'Land Of The Morning Calm', and that I was able to be part of these fantastic celebrations!

Post by Oliver

Best Blog in South Korea?

Best Blog in South Korea?

Our blog has been selected as one of the top 15 best blogs in South Korea!!! Whoooohoooo!

There is a voting/ranking process going on to decide who is the best of the best! Feel free to give it a look or vote!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Feeling like your six again! Everland!!!

Everland is one of those places that you have been dreaming of going to since you were a kid!!!

I can't explain the excitement of the group when we arrived at Everland! I remember Lauren repeating "this is the happiest day of my life" and I couldn't help but run and dart from one colourful thing to another. I literally had the concentration span of an adolescent goldfish and I loved every moment of it!

The day started out with one hell of a bang because we all ended up paying almost half price to get in. A full day ticket to Everland is usually 37,000Won but for some reason the Everland staff saw us and gave us a massive discount. I am not sure if this was because they were being super nice or if it was because we stood out in the crowd but either way we were super stoked. We ended up paying 22,000Won each and it was totally worth it, we spent almost 12 hours there.

It's no wonder why it is ranked the fourth best amusement park in the world!

There is no shortage of things to do at Everland (although I must admit, we all thought that there would be more hair-raising rides than there actually were). We started out the day with one or two small fun rides and we went inside a fun-house! My first ever! But our main mission was to head down to the T-Express a massive wooden rollercoaster which has the steepest drop in the world (on a wooden coaster). YIKES!

Luckily when we got to the rollercoaster we were issued with these cool things called Q-passes which means you take a ticket, you roam around for an hour and you come back at a specific time and Bob's-your-uncle you are at the front of the queue....revolutionary!

We saw some farm animals, strange bugs and did a water ride (we were wrapped like condoms in the latter, it was quite a site) and before we knew it, it was our turn on T-Express. Hearts pounding we climbed into the wooden coaster and BAM, we were off and then we were dropping into what felt like nothing but air. Up, down, sharp left, up again, down, UP, UP, Big down, Screeeeetch, hair in face! That is literally the only way I can explain one of the most hair raising roller-coasters I have ever been on. IT ROCKED!

We then decided it was time for lunch and beer...good choice! We then found ourselves wondering around a part of Everland called Animal Wonder World which was pretty much like a zoo. We looked at impressive birds, we saw polar bears, and we even saw skunks but the highlight of the Animal World was the monkey area....there were numerous species of monkeys and it was such fun watching them run around.

Many of these were Asian monkeys and I had never seen them before. But of course there were also chimps and other monkeys indigenous to Africa. The chimp enclosure had this weird contraption where you can stick your head into a bubble like thing...One monkey tried to kiss me and another tried to smack me! Weird experience. This old guy seemed to have some issues. He plucked his own hair and played with himself in the most inappropriate way but he did seem to have a soft spot for Oliver.

The one part of the park which I really did not like was the Safari. You hop on a bus and in lightning speed you are driven from enclosure to enclosure and you get to see lions, tigers, white tigers, ligers, bears, giraffes, elephants, etc.  The enclosures were all far too small and I couldn't help but think about how lucky the animals back home are!

After a couple of hours roaming animal workd we found another pocket of the park that had some thrilling was round about this time I lost my voice!

After that things started winding down, sort of. We walked through the four seasons garden which had an array of plants to support their Halloween was really something else. Next thing we knew, we were in a small Alpine type village with live music and good food. Like any sane person would do, we sat down, ordered some sausage and beer and got merry!

By this time it had started getting dark and the Horror village was open for business...we saw ghosts and vampires and other creepy crawlies!

Next thing we knew it was after 9 and we had to rush back to catch our bus!

Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to Space World, Mystery House or Rotating House but I guess that gives me a reason to go back again!!!

We spent almost 12 ours in the park and for a day of good fun and laughs I would recommend pulling together a group of mates and heading to Everland for a day where you get to feel like you are 6 all over again!

Post by Claudia

P.S. My little photos will have to do for a while! Oliver has photos coming out of his ears and it might be a while before we see some more of his masterpieces

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hanji Fest!

Not too long ago Oliver and I got to go to the Hanji festival right here in Wonju, and what a treat it was!

Hanji is traditional Korean paper which is a source of great pride for Koreans, especially Wonjunites because Wonju is the only place where there is a factory that still produces the traditional paper.

Hanji is not widely made, because to make the delicate but strong paper takes much time and effort. Therefore it is no longer practical in this day and age.

Hanji is made from paper mulberry (a tree indigenous to Korea). Fibres are stripped from the bark, then soaked and treated before going through another soaking process. The fibres are then gathered on a fine sieve-like instrument (which looks similar to a gold-panning instrument) and are compressed, coloured and decorated. So in essence, the whole process is complicated!

Despite being complicated the quality, beauty, and versatility of the paper is something else! And the best place to get an idea of how wondrous it is would be the Hanji Paper Festival!

We got to see a wide range of items made from Hanji

There were several statutues, models, and furniture that had been entirely created from paper.

There were also several 'paintings' where the paper had been used to give them texture and an element of reality! This tree 'painting' was my favourite but there was an entire gallery full that would leave your mouth wide open. You can't help but think about the skill and patience it must take to make such a masterpiece!

There were even lamps and lanterns that were made of the paper and gave a wonderful soft light! There were tons of paper crafts to do at the festival including making your own paper, making a paper doll, make ornaments and making lamps. Oliver and I got to make our own Hanji lamp and it looks awesome (how we are going to get it back to SA is a mystery to me). The lamps below, however, were made by professionals!

And just when you thought the paper couldn't get any more versatile you realise that they have an entre Hanji fashion collection! There was a runway at the festival (which we missed...booo) which showed the awesomeness of Hanji clothing! Apparently the Hanji fashion line has now been exported to both the USA and Italy. Impressive! The dresses below give a glimpse of Hanji wear.

All in all it was a great festival and we were able to spend a good few hours there shopping, doing crafts and just wondering around!

Post by Claudia

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wonju Tattoo: Photos and Videos

As promised in a previous entry we said we would give you some photos and videos of the Wonju Tattoo Festival.

The local Korean Marching Band

Ladies from New Zealand dancing while the beautiful sound of bagpipes filled the stadium

A packed stadium

The presenter of the show

Now for the videos, all the music you hear is from the people marching so keep in mind they are rocking their instruments while also making awesome formations....It takes incredible coordination. The sound on these videos isn't ideal but it should give you a taste of what we saw:

The local Korean band starts off the show

The Philippines were by far the stars of the show:

The Mexicans were also good fun!

Unfortunately my battery ran out so I wasn't able to record the USA and the Korean Army which were phenomenal. All in all the Wonju Tattoo Festival is just good old fun and I really hope that they decide to keep to keep the festival going because it would be a pity to loose such a wholesome and fun festival!

Post by Claudia

Autumn - A time of endless activities

It feels like we have so much to tell and you and simply not enough time to do it in. In the past two weeks we have had several adventures that we are dying to tell you about and there are even more adventures on the Horizon.

You see last weekend we went to the Tattoo Festival and the Hanji (traditional paper) festival which were right here in Wonju. Yesterday we  got to go to Everland (rated the 4th best amusement park in the world) and the next two months are jammed packed with other festivals and events.

This week is Chusoek (Korean thanksgiving) and we are getting to spend this special time with a Korean family which should be a great learning and cultural experience.

So from now until mid-November we promise to be busy busy are some of our plans:

 We will do our best to keep you up to date with our adventures even if it means we have to use some of my snapshots while Oliver works through his photos.

Korea is truly a place where there is always something happening which makes it a great place to live in and an awesome time to visit at anytime of the year because you are bound to find something happening somewhere in the country. I guess what makes Autumn even more special is the pleasant weather and changing leaves (it is my favourite season).

Post by Claudia

Friday, September 17, 2010

Medical Mystery

When we first came to Korea, we were advised by many people to get Health Insurance. It was 'totally worth it', we were told. So we figured, OK, might as well get it, it's only 50 000 Won a month (about ZAR 300, or US$ 50), so really not much. OK. So we got the insurance. Nice one. Now what? Well, we were told that should we have any sort of ailments or illness, to go to a doctor. Coming from South Africa, the first thing we thought is, yeah right. Like I'm gonna go to a doctor for a simple flu or headache...that's just gonna be too expensive, I'll just ride it out....

So here we are a few months later, and we have both seemed to develop some minor medical issues that we thought needed some clearing up. Claudia has been getting migraine type headaches, and I have a rash on my back that won't go away. Persistent bugger! So I got on to Facebook, and asked if anyone knew a doctor in Wonju (our city) that speaks English. One was recommended immediately. Awesome we thought, let's go. Let me just clarify here, that this being Korea, it's not as easy as just going to a doctor whenever you want; there are certain issues, certain language barriers. But with this recommended doctor that won't be an issue.

So this morning we headed off to the Wonju Medical Centre, and paid Dr. Soohan Kim a visit. After giving the receptionist our Alien Registration Cards (our IDs basically), and a short wait, we were in the doctors rooms. Wow. What an awesome doctor. Dr Kim is a guy in his late 20s (maybe early 30s, Koreans seem to age better than us westerners), with excellent English. So he sat us down, and talked us through our issues, and finally gave us some prescription medication. Easy enough.

Just before we left, he asked us about medical insurance in South Africa, and we told him that it's all private and really expensive. We broke it down as follows: If you want any sort of decent medical treatment, you have to fork out a decent amount of cash. Simple. And off we went.

Outside we had to walk over to another counter to pick up our scripts and to pay for the consultation. OK...let's see how 'worth it' this medical insurance is. Any guesses as to how much we paid for both of us, for about 30 minutes of the doctors time (yes, it was a long consultation)...? Any guesses....? Yes....? No....? OK, I'll tell you. 500. Yes, we paid 500 each for half an hour. Now you're wondering...500 what. Again, I'll tell you. 500 Won!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I meant to put that many exclamation marks there. 500Won!!!!! If my high school maths serves me correctly, that means we jointly paid 1000 Won together. And if my online currency converter is not lying, that breaks down to ZAR 6.14 each. Yes, 6 Rand and 14 Cents, or 84 US Cents. Holy Wowy.

It truly blew my mind. We had just paid 500 Won each for our consultation. Insane. OK fine, we do pay our monthly premium for the medical insurance, but if you were to pay that much in SA for medical insurance, it wouldn't even cover doctors appointments, let alone any medication. For R300 of medical insurance in South Africa you might as well not have it, it's that bad, and you have to pay that much on top every time you visit a doctor.

This just opened my eyes to a proper 1st world health care system that really takes care of its patients. It's no wonder then that Koreans feel the need to run to a doctor for every minor bump, scrape, bruise or ailment! For R 6.14 a pop I might also do the same!

Post by Oliver

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wonju Tattoo 2010

Here is a quote from the official Wonju website:

"Wonju Tattoo is a global military band festival that was created as part of the New Millennium Project in 2000. Through the “World Peace Fanfare” of 2000 and 2002, the uniqueness and importance as a cultural project of military brands were recognized. Thus, in June 2003, it was officially approved as an international event by the government and became the nation’s only military band festival."

And that's what it is. It's a military maraching band festival. I'll be quite honest, when I first heard the term marching band festival, I was I proved wrong!

We attended the festival on the closing night, and what an awesome event it was. We were lucky to get there a little early, as the tickets were selling out fast for the relatively small Tattoo Stadium. We didn't get the tickets we wanted, so we had to settle for tickets one 'class' down, which were still fantastic. And the price...ridiculous....ridiculously cheap. We paid 3000Won for our tickets, which is about $3 or R20.
We got inside the stadium, found our seats with the help of a super friendly usher, and got comfy.

I'm not going to bore you by trying to tell you what these bands did, and how great their performances were, because I just won't be able to do them justice. I will tell you that the show was incredibly varied, with performances from bands from the Phillipines, Russia and New Zealand, to name a few. And all of them were excellent, although it must be said that some were more excellent than others!

We do have many photos of the event and Claudia also made some videos, and we will put them up on the blog in the near future, so keep checking for the update!

Unfortunately we have heard a rumour that due to lack of support this years Tattoo Festival might be the last. We can only hope that this isn't true!

Watch this space...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Not just another myth!

So, we have established that South Korea has a series of strange and unique myths like fan death and the unlucky fear of the number 4 but as you would expect (like in any country) there are an array of myths that are surprising! And today, I think I have one that might tickle your fancy!

This may be particularly useful to you if are teaching or are planning to teach in South Korea.

Writing names in red is a big NO NO!!!

Yip, it is believed that if you write a person's name in red, they will die!


Well, Buddhist monks used to use red ink to document persons who were fatally ill or had already died. This practice/theory trickled down and soon it just became common practice in society. Now red ink is used to record a dead family member's name in the family register and on funeral banners. The red is believed to banish evil spirits.

So, red is closely related to death. I had heard of this myth before and have had to make a conscious effort not to write "Good work, Kelly" or "Excellent, Steve". I have slipped up once or twice but luckily realised my mistake before giving the marked work back. I then scratch the name out and put a sticker on-top (stickers you life-savers you!).

I only realised how entrenched this belief was/is when students were busy writing their names on the cover of new books. I gave them some special markers and let them have some fun with putting their names on. One little girl, obviously oblivious to the myth, picked up red and started writing her name. The almost instant and shocked response from the rest of the students caught the girl (and myself) off guard.

The class was exasperated by her actions and went on to explain to her that SHE WILL DIE if she writes her name in red. She quickly picked up brown and did her best to fix the problem. I'm sure she felt a little apprehensive in the week that followed. However, months later she is still doing just fine.

So, I think writing in red is not a death sentence (myth) as much as it is a behaviour that is meant to be respectful for those who have passed away!

Also, if you write a person's name in red it is the same as wishing bad luck on the person, so just to be safe keep blue and black pens instead!

Friday, September 10, 2010

SA Blog Awards, I'm driving everyone nuts!

As you all know , we have made it through to the finalists round of the SA Blog Awards in the category for Best Overseas Blog by a South African, YAY!

Just an update on what is happening! Well, to be honest, I don't really know! The voting stage is blind so I am not sure if we are at the top of our category or stone cold last, all we can do is wait and see!

I have to admit that I have been driving all my friend nuts with the blog awards by constantly asking them to keep voting. I have had so many questions from them, that I realised our loyal followers might have a question or two themselves.

So here is a glance at our SA Blog Award journey, if you have any other questions feel free to leave a comment!

I didn't think that we would make the cut to the finalist's round and I'll tell you why:
  • We are a baby in blog terms, we only started writing in May of this year!
  • We only realised the blog awards had started when there was a week left of the nomination phase (so we missed 20 days worth of nominations)
  • And there are some pretty amazing blogs out there. I encourage you to go look at the list of finalists, they are impressive and I am proud and honoured to be among them
Now I am not telling you all of this because I am fishing for compliments, that's not it at all! Rather, I am so excited that we have made it this far! Now that's not to say that I don't want to win...heehe! Once you get this close you can't help but pull up your sleeves and get ready to fight for first place. I don't know if it's me simply being human  or if it is because I am super competitive. Either way, it has meant that I have gone out of my way (sometimes to the annoyance of my friends) to promote our blog and get people voting!

However, instead of just nagging for help (which I did try), I decided I would try and make my facebook statuses unique so that people would want to vote! I am not sure if this strategy worked...but here are a couple of my attempts at trying to lure in votes from my facebook friends:

  • Imagine Dory from Finding Nemo singing this: Just keep voting just keep voting just keep voting voting voting
  • Have you done it today and will you do it tomorrow? What about the next day?
  • SCENARIO: Your at work waiting for the minutes to pass so you can go home and grab some chow. You just wish the minutes would go faster. You have checked all your emails and your randomly scrolling through Facebook. You sigh. "I just wish there was something else I could do". LIGHT BULB."Shit, I haven't voted for Claudia's blog yet, better do that now! Would you look at that, it's time to go! Thanks Claudia for filling my day"
Now, why am I telling you all of this, it has absolutely nothing to do with Korea! Well I disagree! I think that South Korea has been a teaching destination for a while but only in recent years have South Africans started  to consider it! And I love Korea and I think that if we win this, or at least do well, we will get more exposure in South Africa meaning that the adventures that teachers have in Korea will also get exposed which means that maybe more South Africans would consider this amazing place for a gap year!

Now of course winning is cool for other reasons, there are prizes....but I have no idea what they are, they have not been announced! So who knows! Hahaha!

So, if you would like to vote just click on the badge to the right of the page, check that cokorean has been highlighted under the Best Overseas blog category, scroll to the bottom of the page, put in your email address, and click on the link in the confirmation email!

What is really cool is that you can vote once every 24hours! So if you feel up for away!

There is only one week left of voting! So, once I know, I will let you all know the outcome! Fingers crossed.

Post by Claudia

Marathon eating: Shabu Shabu


As you all know we LOVE food and we write about Korean food often always claiming our next entry to be the best food yet. And today is no different; there is another dish that deserves to be added to the best list.

Not only is this food incredible delicious but it also healthy and inexpensive! Yip,  you heard me! People are constantly weighing their we go here? No it's expensive. Do we go here? No, it's not healthy. Do we go here? No thanks, I'm not a big fan. Most Korean food is healthy, delicious and inexpensive, but I will explain to you why Shabu Shabu is even more worth your while.

There are many different types of Shabu Shabu, including seafood, ribs and beef. Beef is our favourite; it is not everyday in Korea that you get an inexpensive meal with beef in it. We are used to beef being very cheap back home so we would eat it quite regularly. For 300g of mincemeat in South Africa you would pay approximately R30 (just over 3USD) but for the same thing in Korea you will pay roughly 40,000Won (34USD). It is crazy! So the moral of the story is, we don't get to eat a lot of beef which is another reason why Shaby Shabu rocks.

I am getting ahead of myself, I will get back to the beef a little later. Like any good Shabu Shabu, it starts with the vegetables! Yummy!

The burner, the broth comes on

You get a big broth to boil on you table and you slowly add a cocktail of different vegetables to the broth, which include: cabbage, other green leaves, mushrooms, and some fish cakes (not a vegetable I know but it goes in the same time as the veggies). Then you start to eat away at the vegetables dipping them into some or other scrumptious sauce on your table. You have a couple of spoons of the broth, with is absolutely yummy and then you start adding the meat.

Shabu Shabu has very thin slices of meat because it cooks in a matter of seconds once added to the broth. So you add the meat and what you have left of the vegetable, turn down the heat so that you have a low simmer going, and continue to stuff your face full of wholesome goodness!

Once the meat is gone, which with our carnivorous appetites is quite quickly, the broth has thickened somewhat and is ready for you to add the noodles. So now the broth has added flavour from all of the meat and vegetables that it makes these noodles amazing! Turn up the heat, and soon it will be time to eat again!

Throw some of the noodles into your bowl! Add some of the yummy sauce (Oliver is a big fan of doing this) and chow down!

Now in some Shabu Shabu places this might mark the end of your culinary experience (like the one we are showing photos of) but in others (like our favourite spot introduced to us by a good friend but where we did not have a camera handy) the meal continues. By now, your stomach is reaching proximity but you just can't help but push on!

The next stage requires you to add some rice and egg to the now boiled down broth. You give it a couple of minutes to figure itself out and by then you would have given your tummy some time to breathe! It ends up being a delicious rice favourite part of the meal (even more so than the meat). If you are really lucky you will also be served a delicious cinnamon drink to finish off the meal.

So Shabu Shabu is no ordinary meal, it is a marathon of eating which is also healthy and cheap? On average you can eat Shabu Shabu for about 8000Won (Just under 7USD).

A damn good deal if you ask me!

Ppost by Claudia