Magical Jinhae for the cherry blossom festival

I fell in love with Korea around this time last year, when the beautiful cherry blossoms were in full bloom and everything looked picturesque and story tale-like. The cherry blossoms are so beautiful, decorating the streets of Korea with cotton candy petals.

Its a sad fact that these beautiful flowers only last a short while after they start blooming, giving admirers something short of two weeks to fully enjoy their beauty before they disappear into the winds and are forgotten about until spring rolls in once again.

This short period to view the cherry blossoms means that every tourist and Korean has only one thing on their mind, resulting in a chaotic gathering of hundreds of people in a tiny space.

I was lucky enough to have a day off from school, which was fully taken advantage of and spent in Gyeongju admiring the cherry blossoms. However this was not enough and I persuaded my two closest friends and boyfriend to accompany me all the way down to Jinhae, a somewhat three or four hour (thank you traffic!) journey away from Pohang.

The views were obviously totally worth the wait in traffic, and the Jinhae cherry blossom festival blew my mind.  It was awesome to see so many trees in such a small concentrated area, and the places where the trees have been planted also have a magical feeling to them. My favorite being the bridge over the now dried up river.

The second awesome view we experienced was from a look out place in Jehwangsan Park. Totally worth the walk, as it is amazing to see not only the gorgeous view from above, but also to see how pretty the blossoms look for a different perspective.

The festival attracts hundreds of people, so go early to avoid traffic if it is at all possible. On the day we went it was also raining so check the weather and dress accordingly (or be prepared to be wet all day)!

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Yeongnam University hanok

The weather was gorgeous this past Sunday with not a cloud in sight, giving me the perfect opportunity to explore some more of Korea’s beautiful outdoor scenery. Sunday’s itinerary was to visit the traditional houses of Korea, called a hanok (한옥), which is located conveniently inside Yeongnam University, at the end of the Daegu subway line.

I have visited a Hanok once before, when I first arrived in Korea during my orientation week.This hanok in Daegu however was much prettier because it was nestled away inside a forest, and had blooming spring flowers surrounding the premises.

This particular Hanok was lived in by a rich Korean family. There are multiple small rooms built around a central courtyard, where the family members would gather to enjoy different events. Men and women’s sleeping rooms are also separated into different rooms, and the kitchen is located outside. The design is quite minimalistic, with simple colors and designs being visible in the house design.

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6 reasons to teach English!

You are bored of your current job, or you are fresh out of university. You seek adventure, culture and change. IF you have ever considered teaching English as a foreign language, then one of these things must have crossed your mind at some point. 

I am going into my second year of teach English in South Korea, and thought I would share the positive reasons why teaching English is so awesome!
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The pay is great

This should probably not be the only motivator to want to move half way around the world to teach English, but the salary paid to English teachers is really good. The top highest paying countries in Asia for English teachers who don’t have a teaching license include Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Teaching in Asia will allow you to make enough money to live comfortably and enjoy what the country has to offer, but also to save up for quick vacations to neighboring Asian countries and even pay off student loans.

Travel benefits

From my own experience, I have been able to take a minimum of three overseas vacations in one year. With long weekends such as Chinese New Year and standard summer/winter vacation time, there is plenty of time to make short trips to nearby countries. The prices of flights to these countries are also quite inexpensive because they are only a few hours away, which makes it quite possible to spend a long weekend in a different country.

Cost of living

Asia has generally low cost of living depending where you go , and if you are fortunate enough to land a job with a company that will pay for your accommodation then everything becomes cheaper! Also because you don’t have the stress of paying for things like cars, insurance, or gas, living in Asia is much cheaper than home. In my experience of being abroad, the finer things from back home have cost me quite a bit because they are foreign products, but the cheap day to day living balances out with the expensive foreign splurges

Make new friends

The best reason to teach English is that you get to meet foreigners from all around the world. In South Korea there are six nationalities that qualify for visas to work as English teachers, which already opens your door to new friendships from six different countries.You also get the added benefit of making local friends which will not only make your time in a new country easier, but will show you the finer things that the country has to offer, which usually is not experienced (mainly due to a language barrier which prevents you from finding out the local secrets).

Excitement

Moving abroad is an adventure and is super exciting. Sometimes the excitement wears off after the first couple of months, but I am 15 months into living abroad and still loving everything that Korea has to offer. Being here has allowed me to do more things than what I would usually do, such as skiing and snowboarding, paragliding, open water diving and elephant riding. Partially because I have more money to spend on fun activities, and partially because I have friends who are adventure freaks. ;)

Life skills

One of the best benefits on a personal level are the experiences and life skills you gain after working abroad. I haven’t worked in another country besides my home country and South Korea, but I feel like I have learnt more from Korea than if I were to be in an English speaking country. Language barriers test you as a person, and can make even the most basic daily living task frustrating. I think back to my first month of grocery shopping which left me with a massive headache from just trying to buy the most basic things. Being abroad teaches you how to be self sufficient, how to be patient and how to enjoy your time alone. 

Turkish lamb hamburgers and a honey sweet ending

It finally was the weekend, so I was excited to get out of the house and enjoy some spring sun. Teaching inside all week Iong
without seeing much outside of my four walled classroom makes me feel gloomy after a while. However, a quick stop for a bite to eat in downtown Daegu seemed to do just the trick.

Lunch was my new favorite: Turkish lamb hamburgers. They are super delicious and totally worth it for only 5500 Won. Nazar kebab (old Star kebab) has a selection of delicious menu options such as Turkish bread, pizza, falafel, various kebabs and amazing hummus for very reasonable prices. The Turkish staff are also super friendly, and they make even the bread and wraps themselves right in front of you.

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After lunch the boyfriend and I had some time to kill before our movie, so we headed to a cute coffee shop that serves tea out of real china teacups with brewed tea leaves. This however wasn’t enough for the boyfriend , who insisted on getting ice cream while I drank my tea.

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The ice cream is a new, weird craze in South Korea where restaurants sell plastic cups of soft serve vanilla ice cream, drizzled with honey and topped with real honeycomb. Personally it is far too sweet for even my sweet tooth , but its trending now … and you know how people love trends (this is his second cup in the space of one week).

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South Korean ferry sinks, many students still missing

In case you haven’t been following international news, a very heartbreaking event took place yesterday morning. A ferry travelling from Incheon to Jeju Island listed and capsized into the ocean, leaving around 300 people, mostly high school students missing.

The sad and tragic news hit home for me because I’m a high school teacher and can’t even imagine how I would feel if something happened to my students. I’ve only been at my new school for two months but already have a good relationship with my boys. It is horrid to think that so many students are missing for more than 24 hours already. The way the evacuation process (or lack there of) was executed just rattles me. The worst fact about this whole incident being that the captain was one of the first people to be rescued.

Anyway I don’t want to talk about the facts, you can find them easily on any news channel. What I wanted to say is that I am thinking, praying and hoping that all those students can survive this tragic event and be saved. I hope that this event can become positive, and that the South Korean rescue unit can act quickly to rescue people.

One of my own students cousin is one of the missing victims. Seeing him break down in tears today in my office absolutely broke me, and for his sake and the sake of all the worried parents lets all pray for South Korea. Sending love and strength to all affected by this tragedy. Let’s hope all these young students are shortly reunited with their family and friends.

#prayforsouthkorea

Homemade hummus

DSC_0024 DSC_0025 DSC_0026 DSC_0028Hummus is much easier to make than one thinks, makes a lot more than you can buy for the same price (in Korea anyway) and surprisingly freezes really well (tried and tested). You can whip up a batch of hummus in less than ten minutes, and you can change the flavor of it to suit your mood and needs. My favorite hummus recipe to date has been hummus infused with roasted red peppers.

I have used a few different recipe’s but the best recipe was found over at a fat girls food guide. I have never bought tahini but you can find it on iherb, along with chickpeas if you can’t locate these two items easily in your neighborhood. If you are a first time user with iherb you can get a discount by ordering with this code: MHD992.

You can make tahini, and its relatively easy to do… I just can’t take the smell.

Once your hummus is made, it tastes delicious when paired with crackers, pitas or tortilla chips (tortilla wraps that have been baked in the oven until brown with some olive oil and salt,).

Hummus:

  • A can of chickpeas
  • 1/4 tahini (optional, i actually prefer it without)
  • 1/4 fresh lemon juice (or bottle if you are like me and can’t easily find lemons)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (i prefer 1)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • water from the chickpeas in the tin

Step 1: strain the chickpeas from the water, but keep it aside for later

Step 2: Mix the tahini and lemon juice.

Step 3: Add some of the chickpeas, garlic, olive and spices. Blend well

Step 4: Add the rest of the chickpeas or until you have a good consistency (I find I don’t use an entire can). You can add extra olive oil or some of the water to make it a nice, smooth consistency.

Step 5: Blend until smooth. Check that the flavor is to your taste or add more pepper/salt/ lemon juice. Also at this point you can add extras here (* see end). Remove from hand blender and place into serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve.

(*) extras= you can roast bell peppers in the oven until cooked and almost black, blend with some olive oil until a paste and then add into your hummus at the very end. You can also add rosemary, olives or pesto. You can be as creative as you wish.

 

 

 

5 reasons to visit Malaysia

I spent seventeen days in Malaysia during my winter vacation and had a great time. The country is awesome, with its mixture of hustle and bustle cities and neighboring slow islands,  Malaysia has something to offer to everyone. Shopping, eating, hiking, city sight seeing, island hopping,  scuba diving and jungle trekking are just a few of the things that you can keep yourself busy with during your vacation.

For anyone that is thinking of visiting Malaysia, I’ve summed up my top five reasons to go here.

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1. THE FOOD

Food is not the only reason that should motivate you to want to travel to Malaysia, but for me it was a big highlight of my trip. Korean food is so boring and all the same in comparison with Malaysian food. Malaysian food in influenced  by various cultures from around the world, which results in food rich in flavor. Every kind of fruit under the sun is also imaginable and easily obtainable, on just about every street corner. The prices of the food and fruit is also ridiculously cheap, allowing you to eat (feast) like a king without breaking your bank account.

My favorite meals included clay pot chicken rice, butter chicken with naan bread, garlic naan bread and a roti filled with soft, succulent lamb. I honestly ate the lamb roti for three days in a row. It was so delicious and reminded me so much of home.

Malaysia also has a really famous and popular drink they they try to serve you with any meal and at every restaurant: lime tea. It is much more delicious than it sounds and probably loaded with calories because its super sweet…but for 2.50 MYR who can say no!

Malaysians also really enjoy eating their meals off banana leaves, and use their hands instead of utensils. As a tourist you will always be given a fork, but when in Malaysia…do as the locals. Try and eat the meal with your fingers. It’s super tricky and messy.

 

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Lamb roti and dipping sauces

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2. THE COUNTRY IS CHEAP

Who doesn’t love a cheap vacation destination. Not only is the food cheap, but so is the shopping, sight seeing, transportation and local flights around the country. You can enjoy Malaysia on a budget or a splurge vacation. There are super cheap backpacking hostels nestled in between the expensive hotels, and streets lined with local food stalls and classy restaurants. Malaysia offers something for everyone no matter the budget you have.

3. GOOD TRANSPORTATION

An important part of travelling for me is the transportation infrastructure. Coming from a country (South Africa) where public transport is not very convenient makes me appreciate countries that have good public transportation.

Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur offers free shuttle buses between famous landmarks within the main golden triangle, a great sky train system, good and clean metro trains, high speed trains from the airport to the city center as well as cheap and reliable long distance buses.

Even when I left Kuala Lumpur to explore the smaller and quieter areas outside of the main city hub I never found myself to have a problem with transportation. I rented a car and scooter for a few days just for ease of travel and convenience, but it is possible to get by without. However if you do opt to rent a vehicle of some sort, scooters go for around 40 MYR per day, and cars start at 100 MYR per day.

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My transport on Langkawi island

4. AMAZING SHOPPING

I would like to say I don’t enjoy shopping but that would be a blatant lie. I indulde slighty more on vacation, especially when when I leave Korea because the Korean sizes and style just doesn’t fit me all that well.

Kuala Lumpur specifically has fabulous shopping for any and all shoppers. Within one district you can find your side walk stalls selling cheap, knock off backs (China Town is the best place to start), and as you continue along you will find cheap malls and pricey malls carrying high end fashion brands.

I enjoyed the cheap malls because the clothing is super cheap, and sell everything from cheap accessories to ball gowns. The fancier malls however do not have much of a variety for the budget shopper.

China Town knockoffs
China Town knockoffs

 

High end shopping malls
High end shopping malls

5. THE FRIENDLY PEOPLE

Malaysia seriously have some of the friendliest people I have encountered in a very long time. Language barriers pose no problem to Malaysians, and shop assistants, waiters or locals will be more than happily chat to you in English. Before coming to Malaysia I was concerned that language might be a problem, but almost everyone speaks English as a second language.

The country itself is a hotpot of different cultures, with a large Malaysian, Indian and Chinese culture mixing together to create a wonderful and culturally colorful country to visit. As a result of the different cultures, your time in Malaysia will allow you to be exposed to a range of different traditions that these cultures bring to the country.

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South African's experience of teaching and travelling

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