I visited Seodaemun Prison History Museum last fall on a dreary day, a fitting backdrop for this somber attraction. The prison, originally called Gyeongsong Gamok, was constructed in the early 1900s during Japanese colonial rule and was used to house political prisoners and those thought to be against the Japanese occupation of Korea. The most serious offenders were tortured and executed at Seodaemun as well. After Japanese colonial rule ended following their defeat in World War II, the Korean government continued to use the facility until 1987 when it was moved out of the city. Five years later, in 1992, the site became a museum dedicated to those who were imprisoned or lost their life in the name of freedom and peace.
Alternatively titled, the time I was Cinderella in Europe. Without a fairy godmother or Prince Charming.
First off, a lot of people might be asking, what the heck is an au pair? When I told people in the United States of my plans to work abroad as an au pair I was usually met with a confused look. An au pair is kind of a babysitter, language tutor, and cultural ambassador hybrid. Au pairs are hired most often as a way for families to expose their children to mother tongue English speakers. Thus, most of the au pair’s time is spent with children speaking English. You may be required to help with chores around the house or prepare more in depth lessons, but usually you are only expected to do about 5 hours of work a day. In return, the au pair is given room and board and a weekly allowance of what is considered pocket money (in Italy this is less than 100 euro a week). So while you won’t be raking in the cash, by being an au pair in Europe you will be immersed in a new culture and make enough for a few glasses of wine (or pints of beer) on the weekend.
When I decided to stay in Korea for another year I made a promise to myself to see more of the country. Last week, with sunny skies and spring time temperatures on the horizon, I knew I needed to start making good on that promise. After researching a variety of cities on this peninsula I settled on Gyeongju, capital of the ancient Silla kingdom and city of many cherry blossoms.
I apologize for the lack of posts in the past week. Lack of internet access in the most connected country in the world, holidays, and hospital visits have had me slacking! I return with a Flashback Friday post dedicated to cherry blossoms in honor of my trek down to Gyeongju this weekend in hopes of finding some more of these famous flowers.
I attended my first cherry blossom festival in 2010 in Washington, DC. I was living in Philadelphia at the time and had always wanted to see the blossoms in our nation’s capital. So, when I happened to have the Friday of the festival off I decided to make the 2 hour drive south and check this off the old bucket list.
I love to read. Ever since I was a child I would tear through books at lightning speed and be onto the next. My reading slowed down a little in college, and determined to change that I set a goal for myself this year. I am going to read 50 books.
Inspired partly by the recent post at Camels & Chocolate, I decided to share some of my thoughts on what I’ve read this year. I know that many travelers are avid readers, or use reading as a way to pass the time on long bus, train, and plane rides, and I also know that I am always looking for something great to pick up next.
Without further introduction, books 1-10 of 2012:
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I don’t have any official statistics, but if I had to guess I would say that hiking is the Korean national pastime. A large part of this is probably due to the fact that about 70 percent of the Korean peninsula is covered by mountains and even in Seoul, the second largest city in the world, you’re never far away from a good climb. As spring slowly washes over the country, you can expect to see more and more older Koreans decked out in head to toe name brand hiking gear ready to hit a mountain.
Last spring I decided to join the masses and hike two of Seoul’s peaks. Before I came to Korea I’d hiked exactly once, in Cinque Terre about 2 years before. Luckily for beginners like myself, most of the mountains, especially around Seoul, aren’t too technically difficult. If you’re in at least moderate shape, you’ll be fine.