Monday, August 29, 2011


readers, annyeong.

this will be the last post in E In The R.O.K and it comes with an apology for there not having been more.

the last few months have been some of the most exciting, traveled and busy of my life and I have only this excuse for not updating the blog. The excuse, however, comes with great happiness - as these things are all positive and warmly welcomed. The time has been tremendous.

As has the year.

And I did do something like 59 blogposts - which was 59 more than I thought I would.

But I enjoyed blogging and I'd be glad to know if any post gave you a better introduction into what my life is like here.

Alas, though, things are coming to an end and I am leaving Korea in only 3 short days. Lots to do before that!

Perhaps my blogging career will continue - perhaps not. No doubt that my adventures will go on and be numerous and scattered, and if I have the means I would always wish to keep friends & family in the loop.

For now, just know the year has been absolutely amazing - in so many ways - in so many ways I can both explain and not explain. Just a dream. I am looking forward to being home to see everyone, but I will miss my life here.

So then, I leave with the "other" annyeong and say goodbye. I'll have pictures coming up and around facebook and other places for you to see - no worries on that.

Until the next adventure,


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Temple Stay

Okay. Haven't been great with this. Apologies, again.

This one may be short - but there's more to come.

The weekend after my mother's wonderful visit - my friend Zoe and I decided we needed to knock off a serious token on our Korean bucket list.

Korea has a long history of Buddhism and because of this, they have Buddhist temples new and old. Many of these offer a program to stay over at the temple and learn about Buddhism and they call these templestays.

Templestays range from a long time to just one night. The intensity relates accordingly - and since it was our first time, Zoe and I decided for a one-night stay. Our friends had done a templestay at this particular temple and had enjoyed their time there. We followed in their footsteps.

We arrived at the temple at noon on Saturday. Immediately they fed us some lunch (a vegetarian medley of all things cabbage, beet and lettuce-y........this would be the general meal trend for our time there).

After eating, we met some of the otehr templestayers - a few more Americans, and some other international people (the americans were teachers like us, the others were traveling around Korea for various reasons).

We then took a hike up to an amazing spot on the temple's mountain. The end result - the view - was spectacular - but it was a warm summer day and we sweat quite a bit getting up there. Worth it - but I hadn't brought any more clothes, so I stayed sticky and smelly the whole time.

We learned more about the temple throughout the afternoon and at night, after eating a 4:30pm dinner, we all practiced meditation. My one qualm with the templestay was that they had us sit down for a few hours to meditate, but didn't give any instruction or guidance. Just told us to "do it" essentially.

I've had some meditation pracfice from Madison and some in Seoul - so it wasn't much of a problem - but for others I imagine it was a bit more difficult. I was also curious about their technique and how it differed from what I had learned (the one aspect I did get was that they wanted us to keep our eyes open the whole time, something wholly different than my earlier practice).

We got to bed by 9pm. This was appreciated because the monk (our guide) woke us up sometime around 4:30 to start the next day. The day starts with the ringing of some bells and drums out front that they do daily. We got to see the monks-in-training there, a group of international people who have come to that particular Korean temple to study to earn their monkhood, I suppose.

Again, not sure how the whole process works.

The next day was some more meditiation. Another walk to another lookout point over the city. We left in the morning after all that and took some pictures which I'll post here.

Overall, it was a great experience - learning about Buddhism and the temple system and such. Really glad I got to do it and experience another part of Korean's culture.

- e.g.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mom's Visit

alright, only an 11 day gap. geeeeettting there.

this post may be unnecessary considering that im guessing my mother is at least half the viewership of this blog - but for those that did not give birth to me, this is a run-down of my mother's wonderful 6-day visit to South Korea.

My mother had never been to Asia and so when I came out here she decided she would do her best to come visit me. With the help of her brother, my uncle, she was able to plan a trip with him to come out here and also to see some parts of Asia. They settled on a quick four-stop tour, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea and Tokyo. Quite a trip.

So my mother and uncle arrived in Seoul on a Thursday night and I met them after the airport and after only a slight confusion (me not writing down the airline or plane# and going off the time my mom gave me.....she's usually EXACT about those things) we found each other. We had a nice long bus ride to catch up.

I dropped them off at the hotel and we talked about our meeting spot for Friday morning. I met my mom in the morning and brought her to see the wonders of my employment - Guri (Boys) High School. Friday was a good day for her because I have three straight classes in the morning and then nothing else. So she came to each of my three classes - after meeting some of the English teachers, seeing some exciting students and sitting down for a prolonged meeting with the Principal.

The three classes showed her both the variety and simplicity of my job here. I play games. That's it. Besides for some American Slang practice in the beginning, my teaching repertoire is practices games and - thank goodness for it - my school wouldn't have it any other way. So we played some games and took some pictures and I think she enjoyed getting to see what I do day-to-day here. Then we had a nice lunch with the principal, vice principal and a cavalcade of about 8 other English teachers.

They watched her eat intensely but she did well. We had burribop which is a mixed rice and barley dish with some veggies and things added in to it. A simple food but a good introduction.

After school, I gave my mom a quick tour of my apartment while I packed my things. We had an hour or so to kill before our train ride and so we went to Insa-Dong, a major shopping, tourist and souvenir area. Needless to say, my mother loved it there and picked up some much-needed (or much unneeded, depending on who you ask) Asian gifts.

Soon, we were on the KTX (fast train) down to Gyeongju, a smaller Korean city but one rich in cultural history and heritage. It was the capital of the Silla dynasty, one of the longest and most famous in Korean history.

So we get to Gyeongju sometime in the early evening and soon my cousin, Michelle, comes to meet us. She is a teacher near the bottom tip of Korea and so Gyeongu, being a southern city, was easier for her to meet us than coming all the way up to Seoul.

(that was a terribly constructed paragraph. meta, meta, meta....)

We had a quick and unimpressive dinner and went to get some rest.

The next day we woke up early and started into the city to see some sites. The sites were scattered all around - and it had been forecasted to rain heavily. Luckily we got great weather and with some help from the city's taxi force, we were able to knock out most of the major sites by early afternoon. This included the most famous temple, the city's museum and a large park with many tombs of both important and non-important people.

At night we saw a traditional Korean performance. And that pretty much wrapped up our Gyeongju trip (add in a few meals that did not go over so well with my mom and uncle).

The next day, with only a few things left to do in Gyeongju, we decided to take the train to the nearby metropolis, Busan. I had been there about 8 months before and it was, then, and still is, now, one of my favorite cities - certainly my favorite in Korea.

We switched our returning train tickets so we could leave from Busan and then headed out to the country's largest fish market (Busan sits on the southeastern coast).

We toured the fish market and had some lunch nearby and then headed out to the outer part of the city to let Michelle buy a bus ticket back to her town. Luckily, next to the main bus station is one of the city's most famous temples and, again with the assistance of a cab, we went up a large hill and were able to tour around the large facilities. Very cool.

We left Busan sometime around 5pm and got back to Seoul before 9. I was tired and had to prepare for school the next day so I left them and told them I would meet once again after school on Monday.

Monday was back in Seoul and I felt the need to show the visitors Galbi - the grilled meat that is so raved about - and for good reason. We got some beef and some pork adn I think they enjoyed this meal more than the traditional/spicy korean dishes. After that we went over Coex, a very large mall and overall nice for some walking around.

The next day I met my mom and uncle after school and we went to the Han River that divides the city and took a short cruise down it as the sun went down so they could see more of the city in a relaxing and fun way. Many pictures were taken and good times were had.

And then we had to say goodbye (after some luggage issues) and my mom was off again for a day in Tokyo and then back to the good old States.

It was great to see her after all these months and to get the chance to show her around my town, Korea and Seoul. Thanks for coming Mom!

Some pics at the top!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer In The City

Hello dear readers,

Again apologies on the lack of updating. Life's gotten busy and for the better. I've made a vow to try and get in some blogging thisweek - especially since the last few weeks have been so exciting.

For now, I'm gonna touch up on some summer activities that I, and my group of friends, have found ourselves doing recently. Things we weren't able to do before - which makes it all the more exciting and new.

There won't be many pictures in this one - but my next blogposts - about my Mother's visit and about my recent Templestay - will have enough to entertain the photographic observers amongst you.

So then - on with it.

Korea is immensely proud of its 4 distinct seasons and summer has already separated itself from Springtime. I think it got up to 92 today with that ever-so-lovely Asian humidity factoring in. Yikes. So, Seoul has become a hotzone more or less and on weeekends the group has taken to looking for other options - beaches, hillsides, etc - anything outdoors that may not include the 20 million people that Seoul does.

The first of our adventures was to Chuncheon/Nami Island. I had heard about the former from some friends and learned it wasn't too far away from town. The country recently built a trainline to go out there so the group stayed near my on Friday night and on Saturday we headed out.

Chuncheon is famous for dak-galbi, for one. A spicy chicken dish - they have a whole street dedicated to it - and since its the dak galbi capital of the only country that eats dak galbi I deemed it the "Dak Galbi Capital of The World" and insisted we eat it at least once (we did twice).

Chuncheon is also a smaller city, so we trekked out past the International Mime Festival (that got real weird, real fast) and went to an island near the city. It's a smaller island, just in themiddle of a large river but one can enjoy themselves.

We started that island adventure with a game of kick volleyball (the korean name is escaping me right now) against some city government workers who were spending their saturday having a picnic. getting drunk. getting very, very drunk. so drunk, inf act, that after the game (they beat us - it was our first time) they gave us all of their leftover booze. think they called it quits.

We got some sweet tandem bikes and rode those around for an hour or so. Had some drinks on the dock and watched some friends do some watersports. Relaxing.

The next day we went to alarger island - Nami - and enjoyed some Swan boats, more docks and watersports and just general walking around a beautiful landscape far removed from the insane sprawl of Seoul. Nami is famous for being a couple's retreat and had many romantic scenes and settings - one of which Schofield and I playfully posed for the pic below.

The first weekend in June was a long one - the first Monday being a holiday. Again we looked to get out of the city and made plans to visit Muuido - a smaller island near Incheon Airport where we rented out shacks that were just big enough for 4 peopleto sleep and no more. And there we spent our long weekend, eating some seafood, playing a lot of beach wiffleball, drinking and enjoying the company of ourselves and the blazing sun. It was also the first time any of us had gotten even remotely tan since our SouthEast Asian campaign.

I could write more about Muuido but it was more of blissful nothingness than anything else. Just a retreat of relaxation and a side of Korea not often seen by us cityfolk.

Okay, more to come!



ahhh. ill leave a song for y'all. Madeleine Peyroux brings her jazz side to Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go". I never take much away from Bobby - especially about a song on my favorite album of his - but a woman's voice does this song good...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shanghai & Hong Kong

alright, this is overdue. i got back two weeks ago today.

and a fair warning for those who only look at the pictures (cough rosey mcadams cough) there won't be any of me in this blogpost. ill put up some that i took but i'll have to wait until my friend Quinn puts up some pics before I have physical evidence that I was actually in these places.

Alright, so my adventure started in Shanghai. I'll spare the story about the horrible start I got on there, but let's just say I would have been much better off going straight to my hostel instead of blindly exploring because I was restless.

Shanghai was a metropolis of marvels. It features the skyline of Pudong - the one you've seen if you've seen pictures (the disco ball building and the huge magnet-looking tower) but outside of that it just sort of has these remote buildings that jut up toward the sky. From the middle of the city - People's Park - one could see at least ten or fifteen skyscrapers all occupying their own space.

For the most part, the people were kind to me. I was by myself in Shanghai - and I was only there for 40 hours - but I made due. I got up before 6am on my full day and walked around The Bund (the boardwalk on the river that splits the city) and through the Yuyuan temple area and gardens. I stumbled upon some other temples and at one point I found myself in one, lighting incense and following the lead of several old women bowing in all directions. Sweet.

Oh, and the dumplings. The benefit of getting up so early was that I was there when a stand opened, or had just opened, treating myself to the freshest of the fresh product. I don't know the Mandarin word for delicious but if I did I'd throw it here in italics.

I must have walked around for something like 6 or 7 hours and I spent the rest of the afternoon between my hostel meeting some people, eating more food and hanging out in the large, central park. Unlike young koreans, chinese students actively approached me and engaged me in conversation to practice their english. I had only a few free moments at the park - but it was a great way of meeting locals and talking with people.

Randomly ended up in an arcade too - and if you don't know Asian arcades are perhaps the most intense centers of activity in the country, far more than casinos, far more than sporting events. They take it. Played some games, met some more people.

Grabbed a drink with a Swiss guy at a pirate-themed bar and called it a night.

Next day I did a museum, saw some more of the enormous park, bought The Little Prince in Mandarin and headed to the airport.

It was a really spectacular city and a very cool introduction into China and its culture. I couldn't analyze enough of the city, let alone the country, in those 40 hours to provide more than that, but I really enjoyed it. It's as large of a city as you'll find and stil had some great parts where it felt small and wholesome.

Some Shanghai pics......

Alright, Hong Kong.

I think Shanghai would have been more impressive if I hadn't gone to Hong Kong right after. Hong Kong is this sort of unbelievable mix of insane metropolynesia. just a massive dowtown and banking and shopping district on the main island and then this large span of culturally intact places on Kowloon - where we stayed - and once you get further out a sprawl of hills, mountains and beaches. It's a composition of islands and its a sight to be seen, I would have to say that no other city on earth is quite like it.

My friend Quinn was waiting in Hong Kong when I arrived - having arrived the day before. My friends Joanna and Chris were also out there - visiting Hong Kong along with family and friends. We met both for some fun around the city. Our first night, Saturday, (I didn't get to the hostel until around 8 or 9) we went to the popular area for ex-pats to go out. Naturally we were lost trying to find it and stumbled upon an Italian guy who was heading in the direction. Simon? Simone? Either way, he decided to be a kind host and show us a bit of the area.

After realizing that we knew nothing of the area, he decided to impress us and showed us a bar on the 30th floor of a building that offered a deck and an amazing view of the city. Joanna, Quinn and I stood up there for some time taking it all in and celebrating our vacations and lives. It was quite a spectacular moment to be in.

Besides for that, In Hong Kong we had some great food - dim sum, fried noodles - got to venture over the world's largest sitting buddha on a separate island and far outside the city. took a few ferries across the river, walked along the banks of it and snapped quite a few pictures of the rows of towers.

to get to the buddha we took a long cable car ride over some hills and greenery and had a great view of the outer docks of Hong Kong near the airport and just how much of a string of islands it really is (one can easily forget when near the downtown)

It was sort of non-stop action since theres so much to see and we didn't have too much time.

Quinn and I also spent the better part of our Sunday going over to Macau which certainly did not disappoint. It's been a while since I've been to Vegas but I've seen some pictures and Macau just simply stands above it. Although, purely on just size and money. Macau has nothing of Vegas' party atmosphere - it is almost comically serious. Few people drink at the bars, they are eerily silent and entirely populated with Baccarat tables full of Chinaman cursing softly to themselves. We got to see the Venetian Macau - the world's 5th largest building by some estimates - and some other ones that were equally as impressive.

Anyway, Hong Kong was great and certainly inspired some part of us to get rich and move out there - since there were plenty of expats working for large international corporations that get to enjoy the fruits of the city in their 20s (with a healthy, healthy bank account).

Still, I have no problem settling for life as I have it now.

Some Hong Kong shots....

I'll be putting most of my pics on facebook soon for all to see.

Updates on Korea soon.


Saturday, May 14, 2011


Wow. I have really let this thing slip. Apologies.

I'm going to do my best this week to update so much of what has gone on lately.

Most notably of these will be my recent trip to Shanghai & Hong Kong (with a splash of Macau).

For now, though, I just want to provide a bit of interesting information. The last few weeks here have been jam-packed with interesting and unique Korean Holidays. I figured I'd give you a heads up on them.

May 5 - Children's Day

This was the first of my days off from school (allowing me to take that mini-vacation). Children's Day (어린이날) started here almost 100 years ago and is annually celebrated to honor the children's importance in movements and culture. Honestly, it's probably just a relief for them not to have to get hounded by their parents for getting A- on tests. Plus, they get money to play computer games with - "good, teacher, good!"

Here's a picture of Seoul's Children's Grand Park - a huge expanse for little kiddies, featuring a zoo, amusement park, soccer fields, and several playgrounds. I spent yesterday there playing some football with friends.

May 8 - Parents' Day

Koreans got efficient. They combined Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day into one holiday - celebrating both parental units. On this day, always on a Sunday, sons & daughters meet with their parents and go out to lunch. The offspring traditionally offer a gift to their parents. Guess what the most common gift is? Money. Straight cash. "For their retirement," they say. Interesting. I wonder what my cash-strapped students did?

May 10 - Buddha's Birthday

I think this is an All-Asian holiday (celebrating across the Oriental part of the continent) because I know it was celebrated in Hong Kong (where I was), China (where I had been) and Korea (where I live). I was flying for most of the day so I didn't ge ta chance to celebrate but I understand many temples put on a show and festival to honor the old religious figure. For good measure, here's a picture of the world's largest sitting buddha in Hong Kong which I saw the day before his birthday - and of which I will put my own pictures up in my Hong Kong post.

May 15 - Teacher's Appreciation Day

Not sure why they chose to have this on a Sunday. Most schools celebrated on Friday, however. Our school had a one-hour ceremony planned which turned in to 3 hours. All the teachers got carnations. Many students brought in gifts of rice cakes, flowers and assorted candies. I ate cake and ice cream all day long - it felt exactly like Lindsey's birthday parties, only with 20 Asian women and many teenagers coming up to me to say, "Happy Holiday Day Teacher Eric". So, yeah, I guess a bit different. Anyway, it is still Sunday now, so I may go out to get lunch and tell them I am a teacher here, see if I can pry some free goodies.



Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday April 8

Friday was my friend Joanna's birthday. We got dinner to celebrate and had some drinks at a local noraebong (singing room) and sang our little hearts out - and although the group wanted to get a good rest (most of them were going on a bike trip in the southern part of Korea), we ended up walking some Seoul streets late into the evening.

Of course, we were in the one part of the city that you CANNOT get a cab late at night and the group had to abandon the plan to go to and sleep at a recommended jimjilbong (a large sauna/bath house). They tried to find another one. A closer one. Meanwhile, with my friend Quinn having to get up at about 6am and my not having anything to do - the two of us decided to pass some late hours with one of our favorite Korean past times - screen golf.

After searching for a bit - we had to call Seoul's English Help Line and they instructed us how to get to the nearest 24-hour golf zone. This also proves how valuable a service they provide...

We ordered some jajamyeon to our room (it's like a noodle dish in this dark black bean sauce - it's their "chinese food" and it's very popular here) and golfed. We left the 24-hour golf place around 6 or so and since it was so late I was able to take the subway home with the other zombies and the other people that were actually working that early on a saturday and got some rest.

Saturday April 9

Woke up somewhere in early afternoon and called some friends. Our plan was to go to the Seoul Racecourse (horse racing) sometime in the afternoon and so we met there. The race track was large, and in typical Korean style, was nice, large and surrounded on all sides with awkward English.

I'll throw a picture up so there's something nice to look at here. There's a pretty great city-view just over the course's bend.

Anyway, we stayed at the track for a few hours. We learned how to bet on the races with the Korean scoring card and a couple of us actually won. I came out down about 5 bucks but I won a few races and it was certainly worth it (entrance ticket was about 75 cents USD). It was a beautiful early Spring day and we were surrounded by cigarette-smoking Korean men who, depending on the race and the horses, were either mad enough to throw down their cards, curse in mangled Korean and spit everywhere or jump with great joy and hug anyone around. Noticeably absent were their wife and kids - although there was a large park in the middle of the racecourse - and we suspect they might have all gone there.

Koreans aren't allowed in their own country's casinos, so this may be the only place they can get the gambling going.

After the track we got some sushi in the city and were pretty exhausted. We found a DVDbong nearby, which I haven't explained is just a place that has rooms where you can rent movies and watch them. They have large selections of American and Korean movies and the small group I was with chose The Girl Next Door figuring it'd be familiar and we'd be fall asleep pretty easily. Not so. The three of us stayed glued to the movie and watched the whole thing. The room was nothing more than a very large bed and an even larger (relatively) television.

We went to my friend Nate's cousins open-mic night at a bar and listened to some cool freestyle music and hip-hop and drank some beer. Met up with some other friends and had a late night, but a fun night seeing some new places out in Itaewon.

Sunday April 10

Sunday I slept in and woke up and got some lunch with people around my town. A really good bulgogi galbi place (a combination of two good Korean things) and some great kimchi chegae (a spicy kimchi-based soup) and hung around and spent the day relaxing and eating more. Enjoying each other's company. Somewhere around 8 or 9pm we got a bit restless and someone, probably me but I don't remember, brought up the fact that there was a casino only 10 minutes away by car.

Two friends and I went. We stayed for a few hours. Drank free beer. Unfortunately, my two friends lost a little bit of money. I, on the other hand, came out with one of my best nights ever and take home more than a few hundred dollars. Cheers!

Got home a bit late, after have some celebration drinks and braved the cruel and cold world that is Monday at any school in the world.

Here's a pic of the casino we went to....

In other news I finally booked my ticket for my May mini-vacation. Doing SHANGHAI for a day and a half and HONG KONG for 3 days!! very, very excited. will tell more as that approaches.