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...