Monday, March 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Mommy!

I want to wish my mom a happy birthday from Korea! I miss you, love you and hope you had a great birthday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hillside Campfire / Magnum Korea

There is a hill/ridge that runs behind our apartment building and down through the end of our neighborhood. It's a nice place to go for a walk and is quite well-used during the day time. There is one spot about a fifteen minute hike from our place that has a small pagoda for sitting and and a clear view of the city. Friday night, we went up with backpacks of beer and snacks and enjoyed the coming spring weather (although it was still a bit chilly). We eventually built a fire and stayed up there all night. It felt like being back in Maryland if you ignore all the city lights! 
That night, I also discovered that I can do extended exposures on my little digital camera! I've had it for three and half years now and have never used this feature. I took the above Gwangju city picture. Gwangju is really not that glamorous without the timed exposure. Also, fun with light writing!

On Saturday afternoon, I went for a little bike cruise down by the river. It was a little gray and windy, but I really enjoy riding my bike down there. It's pretty flat and the only traffic you have to dodge are adjummas and tiny dogs. I took this video while I was riding, so it's a little shaky. However, it ends with two old men having a dispute. Keep your eye on the left side of the screen towards the end. One man whaps another with a giant stick. A little afternoon soju, perhaps? 

On Sunday, we went to see the Magnum Korea photography exhibit. If you are unfamiliar with Magnum, they are a group of excellent and highly prestigious documentary photographers. You have probably seen many of their photographs and not realize that they are by a magnum photographer. They did a project on Korea recently. Twenty photographers came to South Korea over the course of a year to shoot contemporary Korean life. It is an excellent visual description of South Korea. I bought the exhibition book because the photos are so indicative of what we see here all the time except better because they are done by highly regarded professional photographers! 

Check out this link of the exhibit. It has many of the photos from the show. The website is in Korean, but you just need to scroll down a bit and click on a thumbnail photo. This will take you to a slide show where you can flip through the images.  

Monday, March 16, 2009

This is my life.

This video has been floating around on YouTube for a while now, but I think I should share it with everyone. Three guys are living in a small Korean Town called Geumchang and they made a really funny video and have managed to include a huge amount of ubiquitous elements of Korean culture. They include fish markets, adjumma visors, swim caps, Family Marts, norebangs, soju mixers, the inconsistent Romanization of Hangul letters and even adding the "eu" sound to every word ending in a hard consonant. For example, I live near a store called "Hi Mart" and this is how I tell a cab to get take me home. However, the driver will not understand me unless I say "Hi Mart-eu". Drinking Hite-eu, drinking Cass-eu.... All in all, this is a really clever and funny interpretation of life as a foreigner. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cell Phone Pictures

I have been neglecting the photos from my cell phone. Sometimes, I don't have my camera, but can't miss a photo op so I take it on my cell phone! So here is a little recap of events sans my digital camera. 

These animal hats are all the rage with the kids! When the busses unload, it sometimes looks like a zoo running through the doors! Tigers, bears, ducks, and dogs coming running in. I got a koala one in a secret santa at Christmas time. 

Here are some little Koreans who poured into the elevator with me. 

Here is Matt having a good hair day at the Shabu Shabu restaurant one afternoon. 

Last Friday night, we went out with the Korean teachers from school. Gumbai! (Cheers in Korean)

This is beef sashimi! Quite an interesting dish- raw beef on a pickle slice on a gob of mayonnaise on a sesame leaf! 

Rebekah threatens to drop Shane's phone in a pitcher of beer. He probably deserves it! Also, Jesse loves Shane. 

I confiscated this from one of my students this week. It's a gum ball machine container with three live bees inside! This student holds it up in class and proudly says, "Teacher- BEE!" I was like "what?!" and made him give it to me even though he really really wanted to keep it. It was probably not easy getting those bees in there. I kept it on my desk all day then threw it outside. 

Fun cell phone feature! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gwangju Soccer Game!

Sunday afternoon was warm and sunny! We went to the World Cup Stadium for the opening soccer game of the season. The tickets are free because it seems to be difficult to get people to come, but there were many people there this weekend. Maybe because it was the first game. Also, last year the Gwangju team was a military team so there weren't many good players. This year they opened it up to anyone. Gwangju played Daejeon and won 3-0! I'm not much of a sports fan, but this was fun. Instead of eating hot dogs and drinking Budweiser we ate ramen and drank Hite! They shot off fireworks after each Gwangju goal. Gwangju is in the ever-stylish bright orange jerseys. 

(Shane is not as bored as he is pretending and Stuart has a face under his hoodie! )

The half time show consisted of two groups of kids doing a tae-kwon-do choreographed dance routine- not so unlike to cheerleading, but with kicks and punches. It was pretty Korean- they love choreographed dance moves because they are mostly too self-conscious to dance on their own. If you go to a "dance" club, Koreans pretty much only do the choreographed moves from the music videos. Here is a video of the half-time show, probably the most entertaining part of the game. 

(PS- I swear I didn't just copy Lisa's blog! Haha!)

Bali - Part 2

From Ubud, we hired a car to take us to Sanur. This is a much quieter place to enjoy the beach and it is also the launching point for boats to Nusa Penida, our next destination. This beach was a relief from the many touts of Kuta. We rented these chairs from a restaurant that also kept us in fresh, cold Bintang beers. 
There are many Indonesian tourists that travel to Bali as well. The day we sat at this beach we were approached by two different groups of people from Borneo and asked Matt and I to take photos with each of them! There were excited to meet Americans because not very many people travel to Borneo. Here's a shot of the scene! I'm taking a photo with a guy whose shirt says "Don't Worry. Be Wary!" I'm not sure he knew what his shirt said and I didn't heed his own warning apparently. 

Thursday morning, we hopped on the public boat to Nusa Penida. Tourists rarely take this boat, you might be sharing it with a chicken. We were on our way out and were called back in to take on some more cargo. We waited about 45 minutes to load about 15 mattresses, some boxed furniture, and some painting of tropical flowers. Must've been heading to some hotel. It was like watching a mattress parade come down the beach. 

Finally, we arrive on Nusa Penida, which is a small island off of Bali. Tourists rarely go there. There is really only one or two places to stay. We stayed with MM Diving. It's a motel, small cafe, and diving operation run by a few Czech people. They helped us with everything on Penida and had all of our meals there (there aren't any restaurants, only small stalls). 

We rented a motorbike for about $7 and rode over to Crystal Bay, the most gorgeous beach I've ever stepped foot on. It's the only beach that matches up with its cheesy name. It's really out there. Villagers come and walk their cows down the beach. Boys fish naked with a hook on a string, women and girls bring their laundry down to wash on the rocks at the end of the stream that runs into the ocean. There is beautiful coral and all kinds of tropical fish there. We went snorkeling and saw some pretty amazing stuff. 
At one end of the beach is a rarely used sea temple. A local man said they only use it about two times a year. 
That night we ate, drank Bintang, and watched Czech diving videos at MM Diving with a bunch of Czechs. I was pretty beat and we went to bed early. We got up early the next morning, ate breakfast, had a box lunch made for us and rented a scooter again. This time we did a trip circumnavigating the entire island. This is maybe one of the most amazing, off the grid days I've ever had. We rode our motorbike (sans helmets- sorry Moms and Safety Girl, but no one has a helmet on this island) around this tiny, little roads that have very little traffic. We kept being passed by twelve year old boys and old men - we weren't going fast at all! Matt had never driven a motorbike before, but, as usual, was a quick study. I held on for dear life and drove him nuts by squeaking in his ear on a rough gear change. Soon, I also learned when he was going to shift gears and braced myself for it. 
The main island road runs by the coast on the north and north west side, but then cuts inland over the interior hills. We kept passing all these beautiful little spots. We stopped to take some pictures and stretch our legs. We made one pit stop at a bat cave temple on the island. We walked up these huge steps to a little temple and weren't sure if we'd found it, but it was it. There were three men who seemed to live/always hang out up there. They really laughed at all of Matt's gear- they found it so ridiculous and probably totally unnecessary. Below is Matt and the man who guided us through the cave and laughed at Matt's gear. There were real bats in there! 
The tiny person-sized hole you have to crawl into. Then you have to crouch and crawl through a low cave, which eventually opens up into a large cavern. 

Matt and I have never been so famous! Children and many other people stop whatever they were doing to wave furiously and yell "Hello" and then any combination of any other English greeting if they knew it. "Hello nice to meet you what is your name by!" All while we are driving by on a motorbike. These boys had us surrounded when we came down from the cave. 

Sweet sea temple. 
Here we are heading inland over the hills. Deserted skinny roads. 
We drove for hours around exploring. We took a detour looking for a  waterfall. Our map showed one straight, easy road, but after about the fifth or sixth fork  in the road we decided we were lost and didn't know how many more forks there were. We cut our losses and backtracked. Our detour took us off "the main road" and into some very small, out-there villages. It was probably the most National Geographic I'll ever get in real life.  Old women crushing grains bare-chested, all the men working on building something together. Then we went back to Crystal Bay. Below you can see a naked boy fishing. Later he caught a long skinny fish and played with it by dragging it around the beach. 
Matt is coming back from snorkeling Day 2. This time he got to swim with two 8-9 foot Manta rays. They came up and swam around him, played with him, touched him and let Matt touch them. He said it was one of the most awesome things that has ever happened to him. 
We headed back to the hotel and giant Czech men who were staying there gave us a "Pena Penida" like a pena colida. They drank giant beers for breakfast, sat around talking loudly in czech, and a few wearing only sweaty tank tops and bikini brief underwear! Clothes are way over-rated on Nusa Penida. Anyway, these guys gave our stay there a lot of character. 

This is a mutant gecko outside our room. It has two tails! The next morning we caught the boat back to Bali, spent the day sitting on the beach in Sanur, and then flew back to Korea late that night. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bali - Part 1

We arrived late Saturday night in Bali. We negotiated a taxi to our hotel and finally got to sleep around 4 am. We woke up in time for the free hotel breakfast, slathered ourselves in sunscreen (we both forgot our shins and paid!) and headed for the beach. Kuta is the main tourist beach and surfer hang out. It also very close to the airport, which is why we went there. 
The beach itself was nice and the ocean was as warm as a bathtub here, but we could hardly enjoy it because of all the touts. Touts are people constantly bothering you and asking to buy their chintzy stuff or pay for whatever service they are willing to offer. "You want massage. I give you cheap price." Below is a Matt being touted by a guy selling temporary tattoos. 

Bali is the only other predominantly Hindu area outside of India. They leave these offerings literally everywhere each day. You often see women sitting around and making these little grass  boxes. They are placed in front of shops, in the street, on the sidewalk, and even on the hoods of cars. Then once placed, they are left alone and are often eaten by birds or accidentally kicked by someone walking by. 

From Kuta we headed inland to Ubud, a city know for cultural performances and its lush surroundings. Ubud also has great eating. We never ate so well as we did in Ubud. We chose a hotel at random and found this place, called Warsa's Bungalows. Below is our private walled bungalow for only $25 a night. We were immediately wowed by the exterior and it was only later that we realized that it lacked basic amenities like toilet paper, soap, and towels. It was still a really nice place to stay. 
All over Bali are temples that you can just wander into. 

Monday night, we saw a Lembongan dance performance. These dancers were really highly skilled. All of their movements are highly controlled from their fingertips to their eye movements. This was set in the Ubud Palace with a live traditional Balinese orchestra. 
On Tuesday, we set out on a walk around the outside of Ubud. We started in the Monkey Forest. This place is full of little rascally monkeys. They will find food if you have it on you. We thought we were safe, but it turns out that monkeys also like sports drinks. One jumped on Matt's back to pull his drink out of the side pocket of his backpack. That continued to open the bottle with his mouth. Tricky smart buggers. 
This is the main temple in the Monkey Forest. Some temples require that you wear a sarong. 
Then we did a long walk through villages outside of Ubud. Here is an entire road devoted to drying grain. The chickens are having a smorgasbord. 

Also, in Ubud I had my first real massage. It was pretty amazing and only $12 for a full body, one hour massage. You can get even cheaper ones, but I "splurged" and went to a nice spa right next to our hotel. Matt was too sunburnt to participate and sat at the pool reading The Economist- sucka. 

Tuesday night, we saw a different dance performance called the Kecak dance. I've read that it was originally invented by a movie director in the 1930s for a movie, but it seems to have been incorporated into existing traditions. Kecak has no instruments, only a chorus of 100 men making a variety of noises that often sound like "kecak". 

Part 2 of our trip coming soon. Meanwhile, look at photos of our trip here :