Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February Update

Last Saturday was Valentine's Day. Matt and I went out for a nice dinner. I ate so much raw red fin tuna- it was delicious! Thursday night I made Valentine's for everyone at work. It was fun to get a little crafty and I can't remember the last time I made Valentine's. My Korean co-workers were really surprised! In Korea, it's a holiday for kids and young couples, which isn't that different from the states I guess, but no one really gives valentine's - only chocolates. 

Also, Matt recently departed with his mop. Justin came over and groomed Matt with his clippers. 
Matt couldn't resist leaving one little curl hanging over his forehead. He kept it overnight and wore it to work to shock the Korean teachers. He then promptly buzzed it before class started. He had grown quite fond of the curl and , if I dare say, rather vain!

In other news, we're off to Bali on Saturday! Only two more days of teaching stand between me and beaches, tropical drinks, delicious food, and beautiful temples and forests! I'll update when we return next Sunday!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Good Junk

Korea is full of good junk. When people don't want some of their belongings anymore, they simply discard them on the street or in abandoned lots/houses. Why give something to someone who may need it or a second hand shop when you can just put it on the street! While it may be more timely to find good junk in a second hand shop, it is much luckier to find good junk the Korean way- you can only happen upon it. Matt and I found our best good junk yet a couple of weeks ago- an orange vinyl couch!
I spotted this couch from our window in the old house that we call the Cat Castle because many stray cats live there. I knew it hadn't been there long because it had recently snowed and there was no snow on the couch. I went down to investigate and found it suitable for our apartment. I had to wait for Matt to come home, then we carried this heavy mother up four flights of stairs to our apartment. My forearms were sore for two days after, but it was worth it have a piece of furniture to sit on. Our "living room" was beginning to feel like its name instead of only a desk, a little table and floor cushions. Furniture can really make you feel like an adult! I am adult, I have a comfortable place to sit that isn't my bed.  The vinyl has a few holes in it, but we have craftily repaired them with the standard green Korean duct tape (duct tape only comes in bright green) and put a throw over that end of the couch only. 

Also, for your viewing pleasure- a view of my neighborhood, Bongseun-dong, from the ridge hike behind my apartment building. I knew there was a hiking trail up there, but I only just explored it this weekend. It's so close to my place and is a nice little escape. I plan to come back to the spot where I took this photo with friends and beers when the weather warms. It has a little pagoda for hanging and is only about 15 minutes walk from our building. I also plan to do lifestyle fitness there. 
I live to the left of the tallest buildings on the far left.  

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Post Korea Plans- Vietnam!

Matt and I are solidifying our plans for when our contract in Korea is finished in May. We are headed to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam! Matt got a job working as a rock climbing guide in Ha Long Bay with SloPony. They're running an adventure/rock climbing/kayaking outfit based on Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay. I will teach SloPony's Vietnamese staff English and maybe others on the island who want to learn. I'll also help out and be a substitute guide if they need me to. We're going to live in a guest house on Cat Ba Island. Below is Cat Ba Town, a little town of about 8,00o people on the island. Here is a little video of people riding a motor scooter through the little town. 

This a panoramic photo of the harbor of Cat Ba Town, which you can see towards the left. 

This is also a neat video of the island and the bay shot on 16mm film. 

We're sad to be away from our family and friends for longer, but we couldn't pass this up. We're going to live on a little island in South East Asia!  Ha Long Bay is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's beautiful. Also, SloPony believes in and institutes a four day work week so that everyone has enough time for climbing, relaxing or exploring. I agree! We'll be there in June- come visit! 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lunar New Year

The last weekend in January is Lunar New Year, which is one of the most important holidays throughout east Asia.  We had a long weekend so we went to Seoul with most of our friends from Gwangju. 

Readingtown had Friday off, but Avalon still had to work. Caitlin, Jesse, Shane and I decided to go up early to Icheon, which is a little town about an hour from Seoul. Icheon basically has two reasons to visit and we did them both. The first is that its famous for its pottery. We went to a little ceramic village and shopped around in more little pottery shops than I have ever seen in my life. The boys quickly livened up this trip by drinking big beers and wandering through ceramic shops. None of the owners seemed to mind. One adjumma even gave them snacks to go with their beers. It was extremely cold and we were basically the only shoppers there. Some owners weren't in their own shops, but hanging out in others because it was so quiet there. 

I bought these four tiny petal teacups and little wooden petal saucers. There were some really beautiful ceramics there, but I liked these little guys and figured they wouldn't be too much trouble to get home. 
Later that night, we went to the other reason to visit Icheon- the Miranda Spa. Korean spas called jim-jjil-bangs are really awesome! We have recently become enamored with jim-jjil-bangs and have been going to the one in our neighborhood a lot. The jim-jjil-bang is separated by sex and you cruise around from hot pool to hot pool or to a jet pool or to a sauna or to an herb bath totally naked. This may sound scary, but in Korean culture this is totally natural. Everyone goes from toddlers to women in their sixties or seventies- all naked. 

In America, this would never fly as it would probably attract weirdos and wouldn't be a place you would go with your sister, mother, daughter and friends to spend an afternoon or evening soaking, relaxing, exfoliating. In our neighborhood, it is only 4,800 won and you can stay as long as you want. There is a gym there too. The spa in Icheon was much nicer because it sits on a natural hot spring and there are outdoor hot pools. Caitlin and I sat outside in a hot yellow mud bath, drinking beer, and staying warm, but having ice-locks! Our hair was freezing out there. 

The next morning, we hopped on a bus to Seoul, met up with the Avalon folks who rode the train up that morning, found a hotel, ate Mexican food, and headed to a Canadian Brewery. Matt and Jesse decided that the Beer Tower would be most appropriate for their beer needs. 
Later that night we went a party called "Four Rooms", which meant that four (well really three) bars in one building threw a party together. One bar had a lingerie show and a Wii. One was a Canadian themed bar and one was called "Owl Bus". This was by far my favorite. It was the perfect bar for Kathleen. It had a design theme that was at the same time industrial, bohemian, and full of OWLS! It was pretty small and cute and a some DJs for a little dancing.  I don't have pictures from this night because I put all my things in a locker. 

On Sunday, we went out for more Mexican food! Then we tried to find a museum with a William Blake exhibition. We traveled long and far to get there for it only to be closed! The boys couldn't take this museum fail and re-gathered themselves by lying on the sunny ground. 
From there we went to Namdaemun market. I heard there was a large wholesale jewelry market there and I was right, but this was also closed! Museums, markets, lots of things shut down for Lunar New Years. Sunday was mostly a bust besides the good food we ate. We went to an Indian buffet for dinner. Below are Jesse, Matt, and Simon testing the lady's race car wares at Namdaemun.
Matt and Shane had some fun playing crazy on the subway all weekend. Lisa looks to me for help, but I can give her none. 

Monday was much less of a fail! We split up into smaller groups for people with different agendas. Matt, Lisa, Shane and I headed to Gyeongbukgong, the largest of the Seoul palaces. Most of the weekend, the holiday was a burden because of closings, but not at the palace! It was open and there was no admission fee! There were also lots of traditional Korean  activities happening. 
One of the fun activities was dressing up like a palace guard! For free! The boys didn't want to, but Lisa and I waited in the short line. I think they gave me the child's outfit. All the other ones had long sleeves and were longer in length. 
The ponds in the palace were totally frozen and people were allowed onto one to play a spinning top games and to be pulled on little wooden ice sleds, but the children had a pretty good monopoly on those. 

The palace was close to my favorite non-alcoholic beverage establishment of all time. The Old Tea Shop filled with antiques and live birds! We went there on our last trip to Seoul and I don't know if I can visit that city without coming here. 

Then we were on a bus home with still one more day of the long weekend to relax. We went to our local jim-jjil-bang and cooked a fish dinner at home. Matt makes a delicious fish!