Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 12


I know I’d been counting down my time left in Korea since about 6 months in, from then already dreading the impending end. And soon those 6 months quickly became 3, then 1 month, and that became 1 week, then suddenly 1 day. And now I write this after a blur of almost 3 weeks post-Korea from my bed in South Africa wondering where my year in kimchi-land actually went and if it all even happened at all! So, while I fend off the already-present nostalgia, here is my final chapter from my last month in SK.

Mon 05/02/2018 – This one time I was sick. For like a day.
Okay, so I’d only really been sick once in Korea and it was just a couple months into my contract and I should’ve gone to a doctor but things were still rather overwhelming back then so I didn’t. Fast forward 10 months to winter, a sore throat and last minute curiosity, I decided to use this as an opportunity to visit a Korean doctor. And an ear-nose-and-throat doc no less. But more for the experience than the meds. 1

With a recommendation from friends for a nice doc, I rocked up with no appointment and waited about 10 min to see Dr Park. Less than 5 min, a quick chat, check, scope down my throat later I was done and given a 3 day prescription and an invoice for W5000 (like R50!). At the pharmacy they then individually package your pills into morning, noon and night packets per day (fig. 1). So easy and inexpensive! Overall review: unnecessary – maybe. An experience – worth it! 

Wednes 14/02: Galentines Day
When you’re single or can’t be with your bae on Valentines Day, you can have a Galentines Day with your besties and go shopping, beer drinking, curry consuming and beer ponging. On a week night! Yay! ❤
(P.s I miss you guys already! </3 )

Mon 19/02: The final week
My last week in Korea only had 2 days at school luckily. Monday was my final teaching day (ever!) and I had 5 classes of gr 4 so I drew a tree on the board, gave each kid a leaf-shaped sticky note and I told them I was “LEAF-ing” so they could write a little goodbye note and stick it on the tree. The joke was 90% wasted on them. Sigh. But I got a few creative or cute notes worth keeping and some soppy goodbye hugs. Sweet, man.

Tuesday, being the closing ceremony day, meant we left at lunch time for our final teachers’ dinner/farewell for a large number of teachers changing schools. This as always, was filled with a lot of food (marinated BBQ pork this time – SO good!) and soju (mostly thanks to my gr5 co, Minkyung/my soju partner in crime over the year with Ms Min (crazy, fun and mother of 2) close behind if not the instigator as well as pourer-of-her-own-drinks. Of course my luck in the seating arrangement was me being placed right next to the principal and vice with the “higher powers” around them. A couple of hours and soju later, I had to say my final goodbyes to 2 of 3 of my co-teachers as we parted ways for the last time.

Friday 23/02: Ms Kang’s lunch
2 days before departure.
As my main co-teacher, personal co-ordinator, Korean translator and teacher of gr 3-4, Ms Kang and I spent the most time together over the year and she kindly invited me to her house to cook for me as a farewell. I got to meet her 7 year old daughter (who was super cute but got frustrated that I couldn’t understand her speaking in Korean) and her husband. My last dose of Korean hospitality.

Sunday 25/02: Departure Day4b
It arrived. And so at 9am I left my apartment for the last time, with two bloody heavy bags in tow to the airport for my flight at 12:45. Yes, I was early. Very early. But the inevitable had to begin at some point, so I’d rather be early than to be left behind. I’d expected the whole leaving thing to feel a lot more final. But it felt so normal. So unexpecting of the finality of it all. After a 2 hour-ish flight I landed in Beijing ready for an 8 hour layover – only to find the wifi would not let me connect. Thanks, ma’China!5

In that time I bought some Yaun (¥), some coffee, drew a bit and walked in circles for 8 hours in preparation for my impending 14.5 hour sitting test on the flight to Joburg.6
One hour into my longest flight (ever!) and I was already questioning how I was going to make it through this! Luckily I managed to sleep through a lot of it thanks to my packed necessities:7
My exhaustion was then met by an awful experience in OR Tambo at Joburg with delayed bags, rude staff and nearly missing my connecting flight due to the short layover time… and some tears, but I made it to PE in the end! Finally home in South Africa after 32hours since leaving my Korean home, and I miss it already…8

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This is sadly the final instalment of my South Korean Travel Journal.
New adventures are in the pipeline though…


Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 11

Part-11-Header.jpgWith a visa in my passport, some yen in my purse, a small carry-on bag as my luggage and a birthday to be had, I set off on my first Japanese adventure!1_noted
Ok, so my trip was solely to Tokyo and only 5 nights long with the first 2 days being a solo adventure to begin with. But yay! Tokyo in winter! (which was surprisingly warmer than Busan).


Getting from the airport to your accommodation is usually the biggest stress, but I made it, having pre-booked everything though (plan-a-lot-Amy). But then there’s still that moment (or many) when you come out of the subway and slowly do a 360 on the spot trying to orientate yourself in a foreign place while your internal GPS keeps saying “Connection lost. Connection lost. Turn back now.” But then you pull out your phone and things make sense. I don’t know how old-school travelers used to manage before Google Maps. 

My hostel’s location was great, overlooking the beautiful Ueno Park which includes dams with ducks and also the zoo, and made for an easy landmark for getting back to it. The downside to the hostel was the strict policy for silence within the dorms which seemed to carry up to the common room and kitchen which was filled with people and awkward silence. No chill.  

DAY 1 – 21/01: Akihabara Anime District
I guess the advantage of not really knowing too much about a city is being able to be so much more surprised by what you aren’t expecting. I don’t know much about Anime or that Akihabara is like the homeland of it, but I went to explore with an open mind. I first got “lost” in the 9-floors-of-everything electronics store of Yodobashi which proved to be a sensory overload with so much stuff everywhere! I did stumble upon the Wacom tablet section and found a stationery level. I spent a good 6 hours in the area exploring the comic book stores, vintage console shops and the many arcade/ SEGA buildings (I had a go on Mario Karts too), found an artisanal market and tried my first bowl of ramen in Japan – food heaven!4_Akihabara

DAY 2 – 22/01: Asakusa and snow
I explored what I’ve decided is one of my favourite areas, Asakusa, an area with what felt like mazes of traditional-feeling street shopping with interesting curios and food. There is also the beautiful Sensoji Temple when you make it out of the maze. I even saw some (very cold looking) people dressed in kimono.5_AsakusaI also got to experience Tokyo in sleet and then snow. It’s the most snow I’ve been in before, including walking about 10km over the course of the day in pretty miserable constant windy snow-stormy weather. Despite this unpleasant weather I pushed on and made it to the Ginza area and through more angry weather, later made it to Tsukiji Fish Market (although mostly closed as it’s primarily a morning market and it was well after noon already for me). But I made it, and by the time I finally got back to the hostel all cold and wet, the city was falling deeper into a stormy night white landscape.

DAY 3 – 23/01: Biiiiirthday
I’m officially in my late 20s now! But what a way to turn a year older – welcoming in the new day by sipping on sake with a friend who had just joined me, and then waking up to a magical sunny and glistening Japanese winter wonderland outside. The difference in weather from the day before was amazing!

Besides the rather treacherously icy walkways, it was the perfect setting to visit the white Sinjuku Gyeon National Garden to eat birthday cake while attempting to walk through snowy slosh. I also got to see Tokyo’s snow covered rooftops and parks from the 42nd floor of the Metro Government Building. Our busy day also included visiting the Meiji Shrine, finally going to Harajuku (much anticipated!) and sipping on birthday cocktails in this iconic quirky “kawaii” fashion area before heading to The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku for a crazy show. This was 90 mins of bright lights, robots, large floats, loud music, people in weird costumes, dancing, singing and corny story lines all within a rather tiny area but totally worth it. A great strange Japanese experience for the books. 

DAY 4 – 24/01: Final fun 
My last full day in Tokyo was spent at the zoo in the morning (I got to see my first panda! As in a panda, he had no friends) before heading to the Shibuya Crossing to walk across one of the 5 cross paths of the famously busy intersection (to the other side of the road – a bit of an overhype but a must do). 7_ZooWe chose to walk from Shibuya to Harajuku which was a great experience that would have been missed had we taken the train. Along the way we found the Disney Store which looked like a castle and further on we found an Alice in Wonderland-themed store hidden through a tiny door into 3 floors of Alice-themed decorations and things. Last stop: Harajuku (for one more time) for more street exploring and shopping. My Harajuku trophy was a “Temaki Cats” shirt with cats in sushi hand rolls on it. I’m chuffed. There was also a large H&M sale on, so that’s one way to use up left over yen notes. Ching ching shop shop. 

After my whole [awesome] trip, I unfortunately came back with 0 beer labels for my journal. Not that I didn’t drink any beer, but all the convenience stores seemed to stock (besides seriously impressive pre-made convenience meals) were cans only. No labeled bottles. So I left with just some sake in pretty boxes. 


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The final instalment of Part 12 to follow soon… Sad face.

Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 4


Gumboots, Gallivanting and Green Tea!

April and May graced us with a number of long weekends and public holidays to break the routine with and go adventuring. It appears Korea is a nonstop festival thrower and over the past month I have enjoyed: The Jindo Sea Parting Festival, The Beosong Green Tea Festival, The Busan Canola Flower Festival, the nationwide Lotus Lantern Festival, The Yeosu Turtle Ship Festival and recently the Haeundae Sand Festival.

29/04 – 28/04/2017: Gumboots and green tea weekend
Day 1: Jindo Sea Parting
With the Monday being a holiday, it was perfect timing for a very busy weekend of two festivals in two towns over a one night trip to the west coast of  Korea. We (having gone with Enjoy Korea) left Saturday morning for a 4 hr bus trip to Jindo. When we finally arrived we grabbed a pair of sexy orange over-the-knee plastic boots for W6000 from an ajumma at the entrance for that evening’s main event… the “Miracle Sea Road”.


At 6pm we, and the fast growing crowds, strapped on our boots and headed to the water’s edge to wait for this annual natural phenomenon where the tides cause the water to gradually part and become shallow enough to walk/wade to the island on the other side.
It was exciting when we were given the signal to start making our way into the water. However, there is a time limit before the tides start to change and after walking for about half an hour the return signal is given to turn around, quickly. At that point you are standing in the middle of the ocean and can feel the tide starting to come in again, and your panic slowly rises with the water, threatening to lap over the top of your high boots… P.S. There are marshals and no one will let you drown, obviously.

After dark we traveled another 2 hours to our next stop and hotel. But wait… beds not included! I was not prepared and not impressed to have my first “ondol room” experience of sleeping on a blanket spread on the floor.

Day 2: Boseong Green Tea Festival
The hills are alive with smell of green tea! It’s the kind of scenery from postcards with all the striking green combed hills surrounding you. 


After an interesting traditional tea-pouring ceremony and tasting (still not a fan) we had over 4 hours to explore the mountains, walk through the rows of tea bushes, take our next profile pictures, eat way too much green tea ice cream (a sufficient disguise) and get some form of green tea infused food.

28/04: Samgwangsa (삼광사) Lantern Festival
In celebration of Buddha’s Birthday, temples across Korea are adorned with lanterns strung everywhere. At Samgwangsa, there were also giant light sculptures of animal guards (or gods?) at the entrance, including a huge elephant with a moving head making mournful noises.

Going at night was magical. All bright colours, seas of lanterns and people lighting candles as the sounds of drums and chanting fill the air as you walk under the fluttering tags hanging from the lanterns – it’s spectacular.

04 -07/04/2017: Yeosu of Soju. AKA The Long Weekend in Yeosu
Thanks to a lucky arrangements of dates around Buddah’s Birthday (Wednesday) and Children’s Day (Friday), we got Thursday off too for a super long weekend, which 5 of us friends used to travel across to the west coast.

Day 1: Suncheon

We arrived along with consistent rain which cancelled our outdoor activities planned for this apparently beautiful town/area. So our one night stop ended in drinking festivities around a long table with all the other Korean guests at the hostel we were staying in. Everyone sat on the floor sharing food, beer, soju and gin. Upon arriving we were made to introduce ourselves in Korean too – laughs. 


Day 2 – 4: Yeosu
More rain, but it didn’t stop us. I was happy once I found a rain poncho though, not much before then. The first day, we enjoyed the Turtle Ship Festival on board a ship replica with wax sculptures inside, we then walked along the water edge to the Hamel lighthouse, we drank a lot of beer and we enjoyed the scenery. And found a Mexican food spot.

The next day there was a lot of waiting around for buses, on the buses and in long queues to the cable cars. The cable car trip to the island across the water was worth the hour wait, especially since the sun was back in our favour. After (eventually) catching the bus all the way to the bottom of the island (a rather harrowing journey of sharp turns while standing in the bus) we adventured up to Hyangiram Temple. Hidden among the rock faces high above the expansive ocean, this is the best temple I’ve been to yet, stunning views!

It was late afternoon when we caught the bus and took a detour to a pebble beach. Eventually, we hopped off with our bags of now warm beers and found some large pebbles to sit on and watch a spectacular sunset. With a slight lingering fear that we might miss the final bus and be left in some rural place, we managed to get back to where we started, grabbed some more beers and walked across the main bridge connecting the island to the mainland to enjoy our final night in Yeosu.

14/05: Back on track
Three months in Korea and I’d successfully abandoned all active exercise – it’s all fun and games until you try get back on track. I signed up for gym at the end of April and I hadn’t felt so unfit (at least not in the past year)… #deathonthetreadmill. The next day I over-ambitiously signed up for a 10km race in less than a month’s time. I had a lot of running to try catch up on…

Finally the Sunday came for the 1.5 hour train ride down to Dadaepo Beach on the far side of Busan. It was fairly hot by 8:30, but the atmosphere was great and I managed to push through the 10km without stopping, definitely not my best time but I needed this. I’ve since joined the running club I met on the day. Whoop. 


20/05: Saturdays are for reading
I’ve not only got back into running (I say this lightly), I’ve also got back into reading. After finally finding a secondhand book store – one which not only stocks English novels but also happens to be in my area (Aladin Books in Deokcheon) – I picked up some good reads, including Memoirs of a Geisha. Aladin-Books-and-Geishas

I’ve found that bus trips are particularly fruitful when you take your book along for the ride.

Thanks for scrolling! Part 5 to follow soon…Follow-me.jpg

Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 3


Spring is here!
As April rolled in, so did warmer weather and the first shy appearances of the much anticipated cherry blossoms. Every new day awakened more pale pink blossoms until bam, one morning while walking to school you realise without a doubt that you are experiencing the South Korean cherry blossoms in full bloom. Glorious.

However, once the cherry blossoms are out, it’s a race against nature before they disappear into a new mass of green leaves. So, when there is a limited 2 week frame for the best blossom viewings, you best get yourself to Jinhae for this iconic cherry blossom festival!18-Jinhae-Blossoms_colour

Despite the threats of rain, we caught a bus (about an hour and a half ride out of Busan) before 8am on a Saturday to soak up the beauty along the river, over bridges, taking photos, enjoying the abundance of quirky love-centered sculptures and wire frames decorating the path below and framed by cherry blossoms.

07/04 – 09/04/2017: Seoulful Adventure
Spoilt not only by having my boyfriend come visit me from Australia, I also got to go to Seoul for the first time for a weekend away! It was… an adventure.

Best parts:
Gyeongbokgung Palace (beautiful and expansive – my highlight!), our accommodation and area we stayed in (Amare Hotel, near Jongno 3-Ga Station – central, cherry blossoms, nice restaurants and pubs), Myeongdong shopping area (gigantic Artbox, the Myeongdong Cathedral with the views of the N Seoul Tower) and beer and soju is still great wherever you go.

Lesser parts: KTX train (DO NOT book unreserved seats!), Seoul is huge (too huge) and with too little time, too many foreigners (despite being one) and Itaewon is overrated (it is Foreigner Town after all – we found Braai Republic while wondering around though).

Back to Busan.
Travelling helps make you appreciate your home situation more! Busan > Seoul (although I’ll be back to give it another chance).


Back on home ground, I got to play tour guide and tourist with my BF around some of my favourite spots in Busan (like Haeundae Beach, Nampo-Dong and Deokcheon-Dong) and ones I’ve been excited to visit (Gamcheon Culture Village) with lots happening in between.

21/04: Zip it.


This was an interesting, uncomfortable and bizarre moment. Dressed in sports clothes, I stood on a street in my area, leaning against a wall, waiting for my friend to go running when I saw an ajumma approaching. I quickly looked down at my phone, hoping it’d put her off talking to me (presuming she wanted to speak English, as often happens with some locals). She kept coming closer, so I greeted her awkwardly. She greeted back and looked me in the eye as she slowly raised her hand to my chest where my zip rested. With crusty nails, she slowly zipped up my jacket >10cm to the top. And with a nod of satisfaction, she walked away.

22/04: At the chop shop.
When you live in a foreign country that’s written in symbols where everyone speaks a different language, things like getting a haircut feel particularly overwhelming. Where should I go? Will they want to cut a foreigner’s hair? Do I have to make a booking? That one has English in their name – maybe they can speak it? But will we be able to communicate enough? And so you start coming to terms with maybe just letting your hair grow wild for the year to avoid all this uncertainty!


But at some point you decide there’ll be safety in numbers and you go with 2 friends to a place a friend-of-a-friend has been to (even if it’s not in your area). You find the hidden elevator, pluck up the courage for one of you to walk into the salon first, find out the hairdressers are suited-up Korean men (with little-no English) with no booking required… and there’s a resident bull dog inside.
We each had a turn to have our hair dry-cut by the men with mad scissors-skills and about an hour and a half later we each walked out with a great haircut for only W10 000.

Thanks for scrolling! Part 4 to follow soon…Follow-me.jpg

Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 1


Welcome to the beginning of my illustrated travel journal about living and teaching English in South Korea for a year. February 2017 – February 2018.


And so, on the 17th of February I stood ready-not-ready at the airport with my parents close and a year’s worth of selected belongings in two large plastic-wrapped suitcases on a trolley. The time had come. After two years of dreaming and 6 months of applications and admin, the time had finally and suddenly arrived. It had begun, four flights and 25+ hours of traveling into the unknown for the biggest and most exciting adventure yet! South Korea, here I come!2-Or-Tambo_1

First stop: Joburg
And wow, the nerves. The headache. The nausea. I ordered Rooibos tea at Mugg & Bean to try calm down during my layover. My hands wouldn’t co-operate while I tried to draw, shaking from the impending flights to far far away.


Second stop: Dubai
After a long 8 hour flight (plus an unexpected extra hour frustratingly spent chilling in the air), I walked around the Dubai airport at 1 o’clock in the morning to stretch my legs and try prepare myself for the next long leg of the trip. A lovely 7+ hr flight with a very short layover time in Beijing lay ahead – one in which I needed to wait for, collect, check in my luggage and clear customs in time for boarding. I was doubtful.

Third stop: Beijing
Due to rains in Dubai (yes, in the desert) our plane had been grounded for almost an hour. The hour I needed to transfer at my next stop and grab my bags. I sat there panicking, convinced I was not going to make my next flight, not going to make my hotel, not going to make it. Not a great way to spend 7 hours, stressing.

I flew out of the plane in China as fast as possible, clouded by panic. Somewhere in the clouds of worry and running, I bumped into equally stressed passengers at the right desk with an airport official who made it his mission to fast track us through everything, shouting at us by the end to run faster than possible with minutes to spare before the plane closed its doors.


18/02/17 – First night in Busan: AIRPORT HOTEL
Finally. I made it to South Korea! Pity my luggage wasn’t so lucky as my precious cargo (which held my credit card to pay for my hotel…) found itself left behind in China. But wow, this hotel! I’d had to book accommodation prior to leaving because the only flights from SA landed a day before Orientation. But getting in the day/night before and being able to rest in this most magnificent room after a long and stressful journey was the best decision ever! My room included a glorious and comfortable huge white-linened bed, 2 computers (excessive but noteworthy), WiFi (FINALLY!!!), a bidet toilet and of course a huge bath with water jets.


Lying in the huge glittery black tub at midnight with jets and pink bath salts bubbling away my troubles with a TV just above it was the most amazing reward after a 29 hour journey and the best way to prepare for the next day’s excitement of Orientation.6-Orientation-and-overviews

19/02 — 27/02/17: EPIK Orientation
A very busy 8 days of meeting 100s of people, long crash-courses during the day in teaching and in Korean life, little sleep, strange food, cold winter days, hills and stairs, being late for class and sharing a tiny room with a stranger (soon-to-be-friend) from equally far away (hey Bekah from New York #Roomie!). And hard beds. But all on a stunning campus in the hills – Busan University of Foreign Studies.
P.S. My bags were welcomed with very open arms two days after landing. Yay fresh clothes and all my belongings!


Money is great. Money in a foreign currency is good. Money in a foreign currency but all in the largest bills they offer, not so great. And there are so many zeros in won (₩)! One day though, I plucked up the courage to buy coffee down the hill and whipped out a ₩50 000 note (thanks to Forex) to pay for a ₩5000 drink. Without the language to say please, let alone to apologise, I walked away with a hot cappuccino and a chunk of their cash register in change.


On a couple of rare occasions during orientation, somewhere after late classes and between WiFi catch-up sessions, longing for warm bed and sleep and with an 11pm curfew, we managed to go out (and down the steep hill) into town. We found a small discreet pub of sorts and had a few of the local brews and picklings. I made my soju debut one night, with grapefruit flavour of course.