Monday, August 30, 2010

Biking, Uijeongbu, guy from Montana, and a new guy from Kentucky!

8-31 Ok, so it's the last day of the month and it's been a week or so since my last entry so I thought I'd update on the latest happening here in South Korea. We're back to normal here at school this week and so far I'd say it's been awesome as I've started trying a new way of teaching and it really seems to work, at least with the younger kids. I'm really working on being more animated to keep their attention during class b/c it's very easy for them to ..... wait, what was I writing about? Oh, it's easy for them to lose their attention in class. The Kindergarten teacher has also asked me to move my class which is going to give me 4 hours on Weds morning (hopefully) to work on lesson plans, etc which will be an awesome time, right in the middle of the week.
The weekend before last I visited a Costco in Seoul with a friend from my area and picked up a couple pillows which was really nice b/c I was still using the pillows from the little love seat and they are not very comfortable. I have noticed my sleeping has improved since. I also picked up a 55 pack box of oatmeal in an attempt to start eating breakfast every morning again. So far in the week and a half I've had it I've had breakfast once but I'm hoping to soon be doing so everyday. I also noticed at Costco that if you bought the Jager there it came with a free soccer ball. Great, like you need more opportunities to do silly things that could hurt you while drinking Jager! Also, I wondered while I was there if Koreans think that everything in America is like Costco: Giant tubs of peanut butter, 55 packs of oatmeal, etc. I wonder.
Random thought here but thought I'd mix to a little Black Stone Cherry for the rest of the afternoon. Had the need to listen to the first album again, especially "When the weight comes down". Anyway, after leaving costco I headed over to Itaewon to meet some friends at Coca Cabana (?) for dinner. It is an all you can eat Brazillian style eatery where you get steak, chicken, etc until you can't take anymore. It was an awesome time and the pineapple desert at the end was really, really good. After stuffing ourselves we headed over to Scrooge's pub to have a few drinks and wait for the South African/ New Zealand rugby game. I'll have to admit I never really knew much about rugby before coming to Korea but after hanging out with the South Africans and others I've really grown to love watching the sport. Scrooge's really is an interesting place, as it's in Itaewon, so there's almost all foreigners, and from all over the world. The South African game was on until about 3:30 am and I needed to stay in the area until 5:30 so I could get all the stuff I'd bought earlier in the day as they were in a locker at the subway station.

So, against my better judgement I went down the street to the Hamilton Hotel Jjinjilbang, which to say the least, doesn't have the best reputation! Jjinjilbang's are everywhere in Korea and are a bathhouse where you have several hot tubs varying in temps, along with saunas, and you can get a massage if you like. There are also sleeping areas you can stay in and are often a cheap place to stay at night. So, my friend (Chingu) Glendon and I went in and lounging in the hot tubs and this middle age gentleman gets in with us and starts talking to us. After a few minutes he counts our penises (1 penis, 2 penis, 3 penis) and I should have just left there. Yes, this Jjinjilbang is known as where the gay Koreans go, although Koreans will tell you there are none in Korea; I DISAGREE! After showering we walked up to the sleeping area and I'm not really sure I ever truly fell asleep as after watching people "perform" lewd acts I was too afraid I'd wake up with a surprise. After a while I decided it was time to leave and get my belongings at the subway. All I can say is that this was a once in a lifetime experience.
The next day I carried all of my crap from the day before onto the bus and headed home. On the way home my Friend, Andrew, invited me over to Uijeongbu to have some lunch, so I decided to head over that way. It was a great afternoon and evening and I got to meet some cool people in the area, including a girl that originally is from the same area of the world as I. Her family was from the Ohio County part of Kentucky, so it was nice to meet someone that knows that part of the country as most people have no idea what I'm talking about when discussing KY. After eating we heading over to Amusing World and man, it's awesome. For about $6 over two hours I played darts, ping pong, cards and they also have Wii Bangs, movie rooms, an arcade, food, beer, massagers, everything. I really had a great time at Amusing world and my new friends are pretty cool. We left there and headed over to the Halloween bar, where everything is decked out like it's Halloween. Don't really have a lot to write about it but I'd like to see what goes on there for Halloween!

So, I've definitely experienced a Monsoon season now, and I'd have to say, at least, here it's not been too crazy. However, I am ready for it to be over as it's rained pretty every day for the last month, including my hiking trip where I was flooded out of my tent and this past weekend's trip. This past weekend was another great weekend as it started out with me heading to Hanam to hang out with friends there. We started with a BBQ on the roof and I was introduced to a Braai-Broodjies( Hope that's right) which is a sandwich from South African (http://http// It was a very simple sandwich of brea, tomato, onions, seasoning, and cheese but man it's awesome. I'm going to have to start making it! After griling on the roof we headed over to old Hanam where I met another guy that goes by the name of Bo, which was quite interesting. It was a great time meeting him and several other people from the area. Later we went over to the Noraebang to do a little singing.
I had to leave the Noraebang around 5:30 am so I could catch a bus and the subway to go on another Adventure Korea trip. Even though I fell asleep on the subway I barely still made the bus and joined the other. We headed to Seonyudo Island where we would be enjoying beaches, bike riding, the ocean, and just relaxing. We took a boat over to the island and I was afraid that it was going to be a bad day as it started raining as soon as we got there. Lucky for us, nature had other intentions and the rain cleared up and we were presented with a gorgeous afternoon and evening. I explored the island and found an awesome spot by the pier where the ocean was crashing against the concrete and sending water shooting up the pier wall! One sad note from there was that the wind blew my lense cap into the water, to be lost for all eternity. Luckily they are not that expensive and I can pick one up when I get my camera cleaned soon.

After hanging out on the pier I hung out with our driver and guide in the ocean for a while before cleaning up and getting ready to watch the sunset. I didn't realize how absolutely gorgeous the sunset would be as you can see in the pictures I've posted on FB. I believe they are some of the best pics I've taken since I've been in Korea! An interesting note from the trip is that one of my roommates from the weekend was from Northeast Montana, so it really is a small world. In the morning we had the opportunity to see the sunrise but I could hear it raining and passed on that. I was going to pass on the morning hiking too b/c the rain was absolutely pouring but was talked into and was glad I was as it was a nice little hike, even though I'm not sure my shoes will ever be dry again. After hiking a couple peaks, Montana Mike and I headed with others to the beach to catch razor fish.

Razor fish area creature and is gooey in the middle and had a shell similar to the texture of your fingernail and it cylindrical in shape. To catch them you take a shovel and scoop away sand to reveal their holes. When you find them, you pour sand into them, which causes them to suffocate and search for water. As they come up you grab them by the shell and slowly pull them up. We didn't catch a great deal as we soon ran out of salt but they did wash them off and cook them; I tried one and they were not too bad. Afterwards, we packed up everything and headed back to Seoul. I really couldn't ask for much more than this past weekend as it had a little bit of everything: BBQ, new food, good friends, new friends, hiking, and biking. This weekend I'm planning on doing some hiking with a friend I met a few weeks ago on an Adventure Korea trip. We're hoping there's no rain and that we can get in a nice hike. Let's hope we do!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ipods,floods, back to school and Teddy Roosevelt

8-18 So, I'm back at school this week, albeit with no students, so it's still pretty much like vacation. I do have to get my lesson plans together for next week, but other than that it's free time still. I believe in my last post I was reading "Theodore Rex" which is about Teddy Roosevelt's time as president. I'm getting close to finishing the book (~80pgs) and I have to say it's been quite an interesting read and it's amazing how powerful this man was.
Last week was my second week of vacation and towards the middle of the week I decided to head over to On The Border, a mexican restaurant chain that is at the COEX at the Samseong station (Green Line #2) and had fajitas. While I spent too much I really enjoyed them a lot. Afterwards I wondered around the mall contemplating getting an Ipod touch. I brought dad's and Beth's old Ipod's over with me and they have been great, but the battery life of both are not great. After about 20 minutes of wondering around the Apple store I decided to go ahead and buy the 8 GB Ipod touch. I should have waited and got the 32 GB later on as I have already filled up my 8 GB but I do love it. I have even managed to put a few apps on it such a checkers, flashlight, chess (which I don't know how to play but will learn). I love that the Ipod touch has an external speaker, as it gives me the chances to listen to tunes while I'm doing things around the apt, etc.

Last Thursday night I met my friends Wally and Kourtney at one of the local BBQ places for dinner. I had been wanting to try this place out for a while and was excited to finally eat there. It definitely did not dissapoint as I ordered the sweet bbq chicken and will definitely be returning in the future. I might make it a special treat in about two weeks as a break from my race training. Yes, I'm going to be running a race in about 3 and 1/2 weeks and sadly I've been lax in my training during vacation time. I returned to the gym yesterday evening and got three miles in like I wanted, but the last mile was more walking than anything. I really want to train hard these next three plus weeks so I can run a decent race. I haven't ran a race since the Ice Breaker in Great Falls, MT last year. One thing that is certain that it will definitely be warmer during this 10K than that race was last April!
I'm quite excited at this opportunity, since for one I've only ever ran 5k's and for the fact that it's the "DMZ International Peace Race" so it's an amazing chance to run a race that is definitely a unique opportunity. I'm also going on the trip with a group on two tour buses so it will also be the chance to meet some more great people also living in Korea. Stay tuned for more blogs in which I'm sure there will be updates on how the training is going. One great thing is that during my several week hiatus from working I managed to not gain any weight (didn't lose any either, but that's ok)! I did a lot of walking around Seoul and with my trips so I believe it's from all that walking that I did not gain any weight. I'm hoping in my training the next three weeks to drop about 10 lbs which would drop me under the 230 lbs (104 kgish) mark.

This past weekend I went on my third trip with Adventure Korea ( and it was quite the experience. The trip was supposed to have us first going to an observation deck overlooking the DMZ. Sadly it was very foggy and we couldn't see a great deal, but it was still a great experience. It was amazing to see all the barbed wire and listen to how where the lines should be and how they've moved over time. On the other side down the mountain is a little town completely surrounded by mountains. The locals call it the punch bowl and it very much looks like one. Afterwards we moved over to the 4th infilitration tunnel dug by the North Koreans, it was discovered in the early 90's. We checked out the little museum there and took pictures around the outside of the tunnel. There are no photos allowed inside the tunnel .
You first entry a nicely cut, cool, tunnel that the South Koreans built to reach the tunnel where the North Korean tunnel is. Once you reach the NK tunnel you immediately notice how small it is, it would be very difficult for someone of my height to manuver through this tunnel. They have a roller coaster type ride that you get in and it takes you for a short ride through the tunnel. So, I was in the "drivers seat" and took a couple pics while on our ride. After looking at them quickly, they were poor pics and I deleted them. Who knows what would happen if I'd gotten good pics and posted them. I wonder if you can get it trouble for that? After checking out the tunnel we went over to the festival. Our first stop was a small island area where you can take boat rides and walk around. I decided to just walk around and not ride on the boats. I did meet a nice family there that had a big bowl of corn in which they had me place on my head. They were very nice and took a couple pics of me doing so. Later, as they were leaving they stopped and asked to take a picture with me. For a minute I felt like a celebrity and also wondered what they would tell there friends when they showed them the picture: "Look at him, he's huge"
Finally, we made it to the main part of the festival and it was very much like a county fair back home. It had a stage for music, a couple swimming pools, booths with all sorts of stuff lining the main walk, and at the end our tents for the evening. With my new friends we walked around and checked out the scene. There was a small area for hand fishing and we watched as a man caught a couple and almost lost one as his grocery bag ripped. Before dinner we decide to buy hand fans and I thought that this would be a great present for D to the J's first birthday. I know he won't be able to use it now but it would be cool hanging up in his room. After making my fan we headed over to the tent for dinner. It turned out to be a great dinner, with beef, kimchi, garlic, lettuce, etc.
Afterwards we headed over to the tent to watch the belly dancing and it was an experience I believe you can only understand if seen in person and can only see in Korea. During the belly dancing the rain started again and was raining hard. Once the dancing was finished we gathered some fire wood and built a fire in the rain and had marshmellows. After getting our share of rain, several of us sat and talked for a while under the pavilion near by. Around 1am we decided to go to bed and headed for our tents. I was careful getting in my tent as to not make a mess as it was still raining hard, so I carefully got in and positioned everything behind me so it wouldn't get wet. I was almost asleep when someone came by tellilng us we had to go as the rain had continued and was approaching our tents.
SO, I gathered all my belongings and the blankets and headed for shelter. I had mentioned to my friend before going to bed about how powerful the river looked and that was one of the concerns for moving as they were worried the river would break the banks and flood our campsite, the water was already right up to my tent. I helped go out to check and make sure everyone got into the shelter, which was a large room on a hard floor, but away from the rain. In the morning we got up, had a little breakfast, and checked out the area. The water had receded quite a bit and the river was still moving pretty fast, there was a mud slide and workers were working hard to get everything cleaned up. The sidewilk near our tents was still pretty much a small river.
We next headed to our hiking site, but was sadly informed that we would not be hiking as the river was too strong to cross for the hike. So, we walked around the area for a while checking out the area, and it was a very beautiful area at that. After walking for a bit I sat down with two of the people on the trip,a brother and sister from Oregon. We played rummy while waiting for our lunch of Bipimbap. After lunch we gathered and hopped on the bus to head back to Seoul. The organizer did say that they were going to try and do a day trip to where we were supposed to hike, and at a discount rate which I though was very nice as there's nothing they could have done about the weather.

After getting to Seoul I hopped on the subway and then the express bus back to Ildong to get ready to head back to school this week. I'm actually getting ready to check Adventure Korea's website to see if there's any upcoming trips I'd like to go on. I know of a couple I'd like to go on but they run around the same time I'll be running my race and also when I'll be in Jeju. I really want to hike Korea's highest mountains and will get the chance to hike the tallest during Chuseok (Korea's thanksgiving) in Sept! The 2nd highest is at Seroksan (sp?) and I want to go on the winter trip there and hike it.
Well, a couple of the 2nd graders have brought me a large plate for lunch and I'm going to chow on it and relax. Hope you've enjoyed this entry! Oh, if you read my blog and haven't signed up to follow it, please do, it would be nice to nice who's reading it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lotus Festival and more

8-10 Ok, so I wanted to start this entry by stating that I cannot believe that it's already Aug. 10th. The time is really starting to fly by and it's difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that I've already lived in Korea for over 4 months, or 1/3 of my contract is already up! I'm currently in the second week of my vacation and like last week I'm just kind of meandering around Seoul and my little village. Last week I spent a great deal of time walking around Seoul and checking out partts of town that I hadn't visited so far. My buddy Glendon and I went on a couple trips around town and while they were not entirely exciting they were a good time as we were able to relax and enjoy taking our time. We visited the prehistoric settlement and pondered how archiologists could identify pots, tools, etc while excavating. It seemed particulary difficult to do so to us.
I also visited Taco Bell in Itaewon, which is not particularly awesome, but it is nice everyonce in a while to go somewhere that gives me a little sense of the Western world. I also found the bookstore "What the Book", which is an English bookstore in Itaewon. I picked up a John Muir book, which is the collection of his writings from several of his books in one. I also picked up a book on South Korea to better understand this country and why things are the way they are. A couple days later while roaming around I stopped at YP Bookstore and picked up "A walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. It is a book about walking the Appalachian Trail and I highly recommend this book as he is a hilarious writing and I plan to pick up some of his other books soon. I finished the book in two days as it reignited my desire to one day hike the entire AT myself. If I planned it out and stared shortly after going home next spring I would have more than enough time to hike the entire trail in 2011. If there were anyone that would seriously consider doing thus with me, I would have to seriously consider doing so.
This past weekend I finsihed Mr. Bryson's book while on another Adventure Korea (AK) trip that took us to the largest Lotus pond in the world in the Muan area and it was a very fascinating festival where we had rice, etc that was rolled into a lotus leaf and steamed and was rather delicious. While waiting for our rice to steam we made Onion Kimchi, which simply is onion slices, the red paste, and salt mixed together and then placed in a container which it ferments for several days. I look forwad to eating mine in a few days. Later we moved down the platforms to try two types of lotus tea, one was lotus leaf tea and I can't remember the name of the other, however, both were very delicious!
After sampling the tea we moved over to the portion of the festival where we were allowed to sit in a small covered boat and row around in a path through the lotus pond in which we bumped other boats continuously and noticed an abundent number of tadpoles coming to the top to eat. After leaving the festival we stopped for dinner before heading to our beach house for the evening. Our beach house was quite nice and had a small swimming pool and the beach was nice although the water was no where near the little beach as low tide was definitely in effect. We spent the night talking and having a great time swimming and throwing each other in the pool. I'd like to take a quick second to point out I was the only one not thrown into the pool!
The following morning we walked out to the beach to where the tide had come in considerably and we were going to be net fishing. With myself being one of the two biggest in the group, of course, I was selected to hold one of the two poles and would be heading the group out and then likewise on our march back to the shore hopefully with fish in tow. Sadly our first trip only merited five small fish, but we did decide to venture back out, this time though I only helped to hold the net up high to keep the fish from jumping over our net. This time we did at least snag a few fish large enough to keep. After finishing our host cut the fish up for us and we had fresh sushi right next to the house and it was delicious.
I have another AK trip this weekend in which I will be hiking and camping in the North East section of the country. There I will also get to see the 4th Infiltration tunnel at the DMZ and check out the observatory in which I'll get to look into North Korea. Hopefully I won't get captured while there, calm down Aunt B! Anyway, I'm going to get off here now and read some more of my current book Theodore Rex, in which I'm a little over half finished, and see how the ordeal in Panama comes out and see what happens with this Canal, lol. 'Til next time.