I’m sure you’re all on pins and needles as to what I’m doing. Right? :D Well, first, congratulations to Mr. Jon Strommen for being the first to recognize those pictures as being Korea. They’re from the city of Seoul which is the second most populous metropolitan area in the world, after Greater Tokyo. I may take on a teaching job there, and I went through all the steps of trying to find out if this is a sketchy recruiter or not. However, the benefits outweigh the cons right now (and the cons are working 30 hours a week when you should be working at maximum 25) I am provided housing within walking distance of the school, insurance, free round trip flight, and a salary on top of that. What’s great is there are tons of English teachers there, just like me, and a US base chalk full of Americans so I won’t be a lone western there. Usually I don’t like that, but in this case I’m getting thrown in head first alone into a city that doesn’t use the western alphabet, so I’ll be glad to find someone who can explain things to me. I will be getting the contract next week. After Korea I'm moving Alaska for a fresh start in life.
More about Korea! I’ll be hiking in the nearby mountains outside of Seoul, eating crazy food and romping around old palaces nestled in the middle of the city. The temp in Seoul is around 27 degrees in January, so it's warmer than Wisconsin. I'll be lucky to see any snow. Koreans do a lot of hiking, though most of the really scenic stuff is actually in North Korea, there are still mountain ranges to explore and decent transportation around the country. There's also a website set up to gather climbers together on trips because it's really big there. I signed up so hopefully I'll get to do some climbing on a weekend. There's a lot of coast to see as well, being a peninsula and all. Too much to explore in only a month while I'm teaching most of the time! I'll make it work though.
Ginseng Tea is very popular in Korea and they have lots of ginseng tea houses where I'll probably be found after a long day of teaching. I loved coffee shops for studying in college, so I'm sure I'll love tea shops just as much for grading papers. Ginseng is thought to have medicinal values to it, and is considered an aphrodisiac. If anyone wants any ginseng tea, red or white, or any other Korean teas or herbs, let me know. I know you can get it in the states but it's just cooler to come straight from a Korean store. (Ann and Jeremy you're already marked for a few, no need to ask my tea loving friends, maybe I'll find you some more campfire smoke tea that you love so much).
bird's eye view of Seoul.
Hiking north of Seoul, granite peaks and verdant forests of Puk'Ansan Park
Kyongbok Palace in Seoul
Cheonggyecheon River running through the middle of Seoul
Because of the paid flight back I’ve chosen to fly straight to Anchorage where I’ll start working right after Korea. I have a place to stay to get on my feet, I have some job options for both when I arrive and for the summer. The most common reaction when I tell people this are “Why?!” “It isn’t cold enough here?” or “Burrrrr.” So why would I want to go to Alaska in February when it’s still winter and in darkness? First, their winter in Anchorage's winter is not that much worse than in the lovely state of Wisconsin. It’s still cold, but not as cold as people seem to think. The average low in February when I'll be going is around 11 degrees (high at 25). Wisconsin's highs and lows in February are 32/13. Second, I don’t like to complain about the weather in Wisconsin. I may curse a little for not adding time to getting ready for work to scrap snow off my car, but this is what I know. I try to go rollerblading 8-10 miles everyday I can until it starts to snow here. If it wasn’t raining or snowing it was fair game, even if it was windy and ridiculously cold. In Alaska, I think it’d be kind of fun to ski to work everyday, which Bill, the guy I’m staying with initially, apparently does in the winter. I will not have a car so what a great alternative. And of course the people are more outdoorsy and adventurous which I like. Did you know during their fur rendezvous they have snowshoe softball games? And who wouldn’t want these images in their backyard? (see above and below). Anchorage is nestled in the Chugach Mountain range, acres of national parks with great views and wildlife, glaciers and colors and the northern lights! Plus the boy to girl ratio is in my favor. ;)
Mt. McKinley (Denali)
A note from my Lonely Planet: Anchorage wasn't built by city people. Rather than suburban wastelands, you'll find vast tracts of green space, wild places connected by unparalleled system of hiking, cycling, and ski trails. Here (in Anchorage) you're almost as likely to see bear and moose as on your bus tour through Denali National Park; heck, you're likely to see Mt McKinley, emerging icy and unconcerned above Turnagain Arm on some sunny night as you stagger home from the bar. And there are about 50 glaciers to visit within an hour of leaving the city. Now does this not sound like a perfect place for a nature lover such as m'self?
Another view of Denali
(Portage Glacier, a small trip outside of Anchorage)
How cool is it to have river rafting trips at my finger tips (Class III through VI, but anything above a IV I need to learn how to roll a kayak), glacier hikes, and hiking in general, and tons and tons of outdoor adventure tours are all reasons that satisfy my decision to move there. This stuff is only a stones throw from Anchorage on top of that! Just think what the rest of the state has for me to explore.
If all goes to plan I may be working for a flight seeing company outside of Denali National Park for the summer. This would be the perfect time for everyone to come visit! Those national parks are massive. I hope everyone is well! I'll keep posting.