Wednesday, May 31, 2006


D'Arcy kicked that bug, or at least kept tapping it throughout the day so we were on our way this morning. After a slight confusion between Sincheon and Sinchon bus terminal, we eventually arrived in Ganghwa-do, a large island off the Western coast of the peninsula.

For those who ever go there, once you arrive in downtown Ganghwa it is still a forty minute bus ride to the beach.

While waiting for this annoying bus, we walked through the town and got a lot more stares, hellos, and people stopping on bicycles and in cars to look at us than we usually do. I used to think the school girls were cute but it's getting ridiculous. I still get a kick out of the old people though. "Nice to meet you!!!!" We haven't met. I've been told I'm beautiful so many times I'm starting to wonder what's going on here. Best one yet: today I was told I have sexy toes.

That sign says "Tourist Information." Ha.

Along these lines, the funniest is when people see us and practice what they would say to us or whatever English they know, forgetting that we can hear and understand their practice rounds. Who's with me?

Anyway, we got to the beach and the tide was more than a kilometer out. Apparently the West coast is famous for it's long tides. I didn't really expect to swim so it was fine, and I did enjoy walking along in the squelchy mud.

Then we took three buses and a subway home to Suji.

I like Wednesdays off.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Going around

We were supposed to go to the West coast tonight where there are beaches and islands and fishing villages but D'Arcy caught the bug.

What bug you ask? The bug that has hit Tara, Sara, and now D'Arcy in the last two weeks that has had them up in the middle of the night vomiting and away from school the following day. Oh no!

I am afraid of the bug because I hate vomiting.

I remember when Norwalk virus was going around. Too many people I knew were catching it and unable to choose which end to put to the toilet. One night I became paranoid and couldn't sleep, fearing the worst.

So far I'm fine and I'll try not to psych myself into having the flu. I'm sad we're not going to the beach. Oh, by the way, tomorrow is election day so we have no work. Luckily there's another day off next week for potential beach visitation. Or maybe I'll go tomorrow anyway. Or maybe I'll go somewhere else. So many possibilities in this life.

My flights for traveling are reserved and June has gone up on the calendar in the teacher's room. Does anyone know how I can send home my laptop safely and cheaply?

Monday, May 29, 2006

World Cup Fervor

I've never been one to care about professional sports of any kind. In fact, I often feel like people who invest so much time and energy in them are lame-o. I do like the excitement of a live game but that's mostly thanks to nacho chips, screaming fans, and big screens.

I have to admit I've caught the fever!!! Be the reds, reds go together, win a victory!!! In 2002 Korea and Japan hosted the World Cup and Korea did much better than anticipated. From what I've seen the country went absolutely crazy with national pride and love the game that has continued on strong until now - only days before the kick off in Germany of World Cup 2006. Suji's streets are lined with soccer ball shaped flower planters.

On Friday night as D'Arcy and I ate ramyeon in the bus station there was a regular season game on between Korea and Bosnia. Every single restaurant, shop, and sitting area had a television tuned to the game. Korea scored the first goal and the bus station went wild. It gives a girl chills, I tell ya.

This entire weekend we couldn't go an hour without hearing one of a few constantly played "Go Korea" songs. Ohhh, pisa Korea!!(I know, I know it's not pisa but I forget what it really is), Taehanminguk bang bang bang bang bang, Champion something something. Every single person in Korea, young or old, can sing these songs. The election campaigners driving by in their open Karaoke trucks (don't ask...) are using it to their advantage as well.

On the four hour bus ride home from Gyeongju to Seoul I watched re-run footage of Friday night's game as well as player highlights, reports from Germany, and I don't know what else 'cause it was all in Korean. Go Korea!

Some may find this kind of unity or nationalism creepy but I love it. It's nothing like home when a few cars of highschool boys honk by my Thornhill house when the Leafs score a goal. Every single clothing store has made it's own red t-shirts cheering on the team and everybody seems to own at least one. I have two (and a bandanna courtesy of my student).

I want to go to a place full of fans to watch a game sometime. Any suggestions from those in the know? Maybe Suwon Stadium...

Let the games begin!!!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Weekend in Gyeongju

It started off bad. We left Suji after work on Friday and arrived at the bus station in Gangnam at about 8 or 8:30. We could have gone to Suwon to catch an 11 o'clock train but that would be too late. Instead we caught the ten o'clock bus - not much better. Oh, at the bus was going to Daegu, Korea's third largest city that sits about an hour away from Gyeongju.

We got to Daegu after 2am, I believe, and found a nearby love hotel where we settled for the night. At 8am the next morning I was woken by pouring rain. It's okay, I thought. We've been so lucky with great trips all this time so if this one is rained out and we're forced to DVD and norae bang all weekend in Daegu so be it. At ten the rain had turned to a mist and we head off for Gyeongju.

An hour later we arrived, worked out our return tickets back to Suji for the next day, and were soon sitting pretty on bicycles rented for the day at a cheap five bucks each.

Riding a bicycle around a wet, lush, and small Korean city is exhilerating. We felt the wind and mist in our hair and we easily went from tomb to tomb. Nothing like a day of tomb hopping. Everything was so green, with fog wrapped mountains the backdrop no matter where we went. It was beautiful and I don't think the rain took away from things at all.
Here we are in Timouli park where there are lots of large tombs including an excavated one that you can enter. From what I got, Gyeongju was once the capital of Korea during the Silla dynasty. During this time, important men and their wives were buried (much like the Egyptian pyramids) in these tombs. They are dug out pieces of land with a wooden casket inside a stone lined area. The body and the body's possessions (swords, jewels, etc.) are entombed. Then the stone area is covered with dirt and planted with grass. If intruders try to enter from the side the whole thing will collapse on them. Suckers.

We also biked to this recreated place... uhh... I didn't pay attention but it was pretty. There was a frog amidst lilypads.
There was also a lot of bamboo growing naturally. Imagine that, bamboo growing, not bamboo as furniture. I once watched a program on Arirang about bamboo and now I like it a lot. Growing, not as furniture.

We ate a very delicious lunch at a foreign restaurant called Terrace that was recommended by trusty Lonely Planet. Have I mentioned that I'm damn sick and tired of Korean food. I am. I hate to admit it but I am.

Then we went on a love hotel hunt that shouldn't have been too hard but we were looking for 30,000 won or less and a lot of people shunned us. Why? It was mid afternoon. Love hotels are so creepy. You walk into the dimly or flourescently lit lobby and the reception desk is only a tiny little glass hole for speaking through. We bend down and peer in to see some old ajumma or ajoshi sleeping on the floor or watching soap operas. They reluctantly pull themselves up to tell us there are no rooms for us. We found one and it was fine. Then we napped.

Later in the evening we took a bus to the ritzy part o' town to pay our second visit to a sauna/spa. It was lovely. I was hoping for another full body skin scrub but I think there was some kind of miscommunication and the naked scrubber woman told us it was 20 bones each. Too rich for my blood. Later we realized it was ten each, twenty all together. Damn, I wanted that scrub.

All fresh and clean we jumped in a cab to Dongguk university area where we hoped to head to a bar recommended by LP. Turn out it's no longer in excistence so we went into the nearest one. We were just stumbling over a menu with no recognizable food items when a guy sat down with us to chat. The night soon turned into a hilarious time of drinking, eating chicken stomach (I don't recommend this!!) and trying to talk to this guy and his girlfriend who both spoke only a little more English than we speak Korean.

Today we went to Bulguska temple. Ever hear of AFC syndrome that is common with travelers in Europe? Another Fucking Church, for those of you who haven't. I think I'm suffering from AFT syndrome. That's alright. The sun was shining and there was a tour group of senior, fat white people from America to gawk at. What a sight to be seen. What were they doing in Korea, I wonder. I'm as surprised as you are that I didn't get them on film.

We hung out in the sun with the grass and mountains surrounding us, walked through town from the train station to the bus station, and made it home in time for me to do all this blogging with out it being too late. The bus ride through Korea was quite beautiful. Half of my pictures are being refused by flickr uploader right now which is a shame and a pity.

I'd recommend visiting Gyeongju to one and all. It's nice.

On the Road

I am in the Gyeongju bus terminal at the moment and the keys on the keyboard require an effortful punch.

We've had a very good time cycling from site to site in the rain, scrubbing down at a sauna and bath, chit chatting with a friendly couple in a bar, and resting on a bench near some grass at Bolguksa temple in the sun. Now we have half an hour to kill before the bus ride home to Suji.

I only had three emails waiting for me after a two day hiatus. Two were junk mail. Out of sight out of mind, eh? Sob.

Pictures to come later.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'm totally crazy

I bought another big box at the post office on the way home from work today and it's already (too) full of stuff to send home. Why am I packing already? I'll use the excuse that the sooner I send this stuff the sooner it will get home - apparently surface mail takes about three months. Really I just can't wait! To travel, to go home... ahh.

For those considering coming to Korea I have a piece of advice for you. If you intend on traveling after your contract is up, pack your stuff in a collapsable bag (like a hockey bag or a big duffel bag). That way you can fold it up and stuff it in a box that you send home via slow boat. My first very big and heavy box only cost fourty bucks to send home. D'Arcy is having problems thinking about how to send home her large suitcase.

Tomorrow after work Darce and I are heading to Gyeonju, the once capital of the Silla dyanasty. I don't know anything about that but I'll come home full of good information, maybe.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dreaming some more

In my dream it was my last day of work and I said goodbye to my kids with little emotion. The new teacher was already stepping in and I think the most significant feeling I had was that of being rushed. The next thing I knew I was at the airport, finding out that my flight was not at 5:30 but 3:30 or something like that and D'Arcy wasn't even en route yet. Ahh. I took the bus back to Suji or called her or something to tell her the problem.

We were both standing at the ticket counter at 3:30, the time our flight was to depart, about to find out if we could board a later flight. Then it occurred to us that we were going traveling and did not actually want to head to Toronto. We inquired about flights leaving that day. "How much does it cost to go to Lima, Peru?" "$2000 USD" the English speaking white guy at the counter replied. "Okay, never mind, we'll buy two tickets to Hanoi please."

Then I realized that I had no credit card (as I haven't seen mine since Christmas in Bangkok) and all I had was an ATM card connected to my chequing account. "What??" croaked the ticket counter guy, "You're going traveling and you don't have a credit card? Are you crazy??"

I woke up and immediately activated a new credit card I've had sitting around since the summer.

The evening before this dream I emailed my travel agent for the second time to request flight information and quotes for the summer. Flight prices and everything in Korea are really weird - they don't actually come out with set prices/schedules until a few weeks before so all you can do is put your name on a reservation list. I also read a month old email from an old friend who is driving from Lima to Santiago sometime soon. That's cool.

My travel agent hasn't responded yet which is unlike him - he usually at least says "Please wait for me." I'm waiting, I'm waiting, but I can only wait so long.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Crack the whip

Oh my golly, I only have five weekends left in Korea. And saving the last one to spend in Suji/Seoul, that leaves four weekends to do all the many things D'Arcy and I just realized we have left to do in this great land.

We made a list.

1) Gyeongju - a historical place to do with the Silla dynasty. It's one hour away from Busan. I think we'll head there this coming weekend.

2) White Water Rafting in Inje and a folk village in Andong (both in the same province as the mountain from last weekend). Maybe this will be the following weekend.

3) Islands in the South - Geojedo. We considered this and think we'll scrap the idea becuase it's just too far away. If someone can make a compelling argument as to why I should go here, I may change my mind.

4) Geonju - a famous temple with rock in the Southwest. I didn't give myself very good notes about this and don't trust myself that it's right... the name is eerily similar to number 1. That means nothing in Korea.

5) Ganghwa-do (or is it Daechon Beach) which is a beach and island on the West Coast. I guess it's better to do this one when it's a bit warmer.

6) Icheon ceramics and hot spring spas - maybe we'll go here next Wednesday which is election day and therefore a national holidayf. Then again maybe the roads will be treacherous and I should avoid road transportation at all costs. I don't know.

That's six things, five of which are weekend trips. As I said, I have four spare weekends available for trips (assuming I'm prepared to go on a trip every weekend from now until my last weekend in Korea. I guess I am.) If anyone here is an expert on these things, your input would be much appreciated.

As for things left to do in Seoul, which it looks like will have to be done after work on Tuesdays or Thursdays (when I finish school at 4:30), I have made a small list:

1) A prison at dongnimmun station

2) The National Museum at Yongsan station

3) Building 63 (it's tall and has old pictures of Seoul in it)

4) Seoul National University (I want to buy a tshirt...)

And that'll wrap up my year in Korea. What the hell was I doing all winter, hibernating? Honestly.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Seoraksan Beauty

And now for a detailed log of my weekend to Sokcho.

We got a call from Ronan at 7:59 on Saturday morning, one minute before we were to leave, saying he was in. Then we caught the buses we needed to catch to make it to the city of Sokcho in the Northeast of South Korea. From East Seoul bus terminal it took us four hours to get there in a very comfortable and spacious bus.

We stepped into Seoraksan park at about two and took the cablecar up to one of the peaks... I'm not sure which. A very quick and painless hike to the top and we were greeted by a breathtaking view of greenery, rocky cliffs, and other peaks in the distance. There were no fences or anything to keep up from falling to our deaths. Suicide rates are high in Korea - I wonder if anyone ever decides to do it from Seoraksan.
At one point we found a great view from a cliff-like area where nobody was standing. We spent a while there taking pictures and taking in the scenery, all the while the sounds of a man on a loudspeaker at the top of a rocky peak adding to the atmosphere. "What do you think he's saying?" someone asked offhand. Ten minutes later we heard a heavily accented and rather urgent "HELLO!!" Apparently nobody was standing there for a while. He had been telling to get out of there for a while but in Korean. Who knew. Foreigner sightings were rare this weekend.From there we checked out a little uninteresting temple at the top and then headed down. At the foot of the cablecar there is my favourite Buddha I've seen yet, in a close race with the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. At least this one I could take pictures of. It's enormous! And so beautiful. I loved it.

We walked around a bit more and then took a bus back to Sokcho. What a lame town Sokcho is, at least at this time of year. Everything was closed and nothing was even around. We were lucky enough to run into a group of uniformed highschool girls who giggled incessantly and requested they have their picture taken with us. They literally jumped and squealed when we agreed. After the picture was taken and thank yous were made, they ran off hollering and hooting like we were the Backstreet Boys. As I said, I guess foreigner sightings are rare. We did happen to stumble across a few interesting things after an unsatisfying Pizza Hut dinner. The fifteen dollar regular was equivalent in size to a Canadian small. I left hungry.

We found a hotel that cost us ten bucks each and then went looking for a place to have a few drinks. On the way we instead found a row of glass storefronts lit with neon pink and decorated with brassiered women gazing playfully out. Prostitution is widespread - every small town has as many "double barber poles" as it has PC bangs. Who are the girls who work at these places, I wonder?

We had few beers, headed home, I took a bath, and then called it a night.

Sunday morning we woke up and headed back to the park, this time past the cablecar and Buddha, along a bath that started off smooth and even and progressivly got more and more rocky and more and more inclined until we were climbing up instead of walking across.

Along the way we headed into what we called the rock river which I thought was beauty to remember. The background scenery and the strangeness of the rocks, plus it being empty of people except for us made it truly memorable. Despite Ronan's urging for us all to go swimming, we pressed on.

Back to the crazy incline. We climbed and climbed.. I didn't know if I could go on but did.. and then we reached the top and it was worth it. Old Koreans sprinted past us now and then and made me hang my head in shame. Especially the man who asked us to guess his age. I thought 38. D'Arcy though 42. His ID proved he was 62!!! You should have seen this man! It took my breath away. If I can climb a 700 meter mountain when I'm 62 I'll be seriously impressed with myself. I could hardly do it at 23. He attributed his youthfulness to hiking.
We descended easily, Ronan got his swim in, and we headed to the bus station for 5:00. The woman behind the ticket counted told us the tickets were all sold out intil 8:00. That would mean we wouldn't arrive home until well after 1:00am. A whole bunch of smart moves later we were sitting pretty on the "Excellent Bus" heading toward Kangnam with an hour cut off of the busride time and a belly full of flied chicken. I walked into my house just after 11.

I saw a woman custodian in the reststop bathroom washing the mirrors over the sinks. In order to reach she had one foot on a stool and the other foot on the counter.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Home sweet home again

Another late night return from a weekend of fantasticness.

Seoraksan was beautiful! The weather was great, the crowds were minimal, the hiking was hard but the views made it all worthwhile. I'll describe it in detail when I've had some sleep. Here are a couple of pictures to put your minds at ease.

I climbed this mountain! It was 700 meters high.

Here I am (with Irish Ronan who ended up coming along) in the rock river. What a crazy rock river it is!

In case you can't be sure, it's me again, and I'm up high in the mountains which I climbed. The beautiful, beautiful, high up mountains.

Let's go Korea!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Off to the mountain

Tomorrow morning I'll wake up and meet D'Arcy and Sara on the 'porch' at 8am. We'll take either the 6900 or 1115-5 bus to Jamsil and then the... oh no, I forget the number... bus to the Dongseoul bus terminal. From there we'll pay about 16,000 won to take a four hour bus to the East coast town of Sokcho. Then we'll hike Seoraksan in one way or another.

Hopefully we can see the water sometime too.

We'll head back later tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that we don't hit traffic that turns our four hour bus ride into a twelve hour one.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


This evening I ate at Lotteria, the fast food burger chain of Lotte infiltrated countries. It was my first time and I was on a mission so I chose the first burger set I saw that wasn't some insane-o triple decker creation. I chose the bulgogi burger which I hoped meant a regular burger. Bulgogi is meat that's marinated in a sweetish sauce. I don't know why I didn't consider this a little bit more carefully. It was disgusting. A bad tasting patty with nasty sauce and mayo and a limp bit of lettuce. I was less than impressed. The fries and Pepsi were tasty, but I couln't do the burger. I'm not one to throw out food usually, believe you me. Just a warning to you all: avoid the bulgogi burger.

Then I had a hilarious conversation with a salesman at Technomart. He spoke Korean speedily and threw in a few English words here and there when he could, but we managed to understand each other, I think. He said he likes to eat cow intestines and also pig legs. I asked him if he's ever been to Canada or America and he said "I only like Korea." He meant it too. I asked him if he thought Korea would win the World Cup. He said "no, they'll rank 16th." I have more faith.

We talked about making plans to eat galbi and drink soju together.

Tae Han Min Guk!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The moves in bellydancing are getting very complex.

Try this one:

Step 1: Hungry (suck it in)

Step 2: Out (pop out your chest)

Step 3: Fat (let it all hang out like you're pregnant)

Step 4:Natural (be natural)

Repeat until you have a steady ripple of skinny-out-fat-natural going on.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Tuesday night in Suji

I need to take a break from reading about starvation and survival in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. The book is "First They Killed My Father" by Loung Ung and is the story of her middle class Phnom Phen family's struggle.

I memorized the details of this genocide for the class I took called "Genocide." I couldn't remember a single detail when I started reading this book.

Autobiographies are my ideal method of learning history.

There's nothing to write about. Nobody is online to say hello to, and I've already eaten too much galbi for one sitting. Today at school I finished my lessong planning for May and thus felt like it is now June. With only "one month" left of teaching I vowed to myself to be a lighthearted, happy teacher from now on. I don't need to take things seriously; I'm leaving soon! Just enjoy the kids and forget about everything else. Then I came back from a break to find the cover of my book torn off. GHREAAAHAH. It's really a month and a half, isn't it.

I'm looking forward to this weekend when I, if all goes according to tentative plan, will be hiking around Sorak mountain (Soraksan). Let's see if the rumors are true about the Korean hiking experience.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Teacher's Day

May is family month in Korea and in the past couple of weeks we've celebrated Children's Day and Parent's Day. Maybe I've even missed some days.

All I know is today was Teacher's Day! I got a few nice gifts though I can't say I raked in like some of my coworkers. Damn only having seven kids registered in my class. That's what I'll blame it on...

What I did get was the funniest card of all time. You doubt me? I'll show you.

Here it is from the front looking innocent and cute. That bear has a nice present in its paws. I like presents.

Oh oh. I smelled trouble as soon as I turned this baby over. Are those... butt cheeks?? Sure are. And you know what those two side tabs are, dontcha?

It's DONG! You pull the tabs and blam, out pops the good ol' swirl of poop that everyone loves in this country. Little Sue's mom thought this card would be a good one to send to her child's teacher. That's cool - I have nothing against poo, I guess.

From now on I will be scouring the shelves of every paper store in the country in pursuit of a lifelong collection of these cards to send to one and all for every possible holiday. Hey, I just this second remembered that I once bought a box Christmas cards where the dog eats a candycane and then his poo is striped red and white. I fit right in here in Korea.

In other hilarity, today D'Arcy's kid Philip said after a hot and sweaty gym period "I'm raining."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

My new hipscarf

Wow, I've been a blogging freak this weekend. I guess because I hardly left my house yesterday. It was, by recent standards, chilly. I haven't told you yet that summer is pretty much here and hazy nastiness is creeping in.

It's really funny to be me sometimes, especially in Korea, because of both my height and magic straight hair. People don't know what to do with me at first glance. "She's tall! Is she Korean? Korean's don't have that kind of bootay. What the hell??" That's what they say to themselves, I'm sure.

Last night I was at a dance club with D'Arcy and Tara. They were dancing on a raised level and I was beside them on the lower level, but basically eye to eye with them. A little GI came along and brushed my arm and said hello. This would be funny. I stepped up on the stair after a moment and apparently (though I didn't look) his reaction was priceless. He was about 5'6'' I'd say.

In other news, today I bought a hipscarf for bellydancing so my shake, shake, shakes will have the oumph they should. It's amazing. Here, you can see it.

By the way, I successfully cleaned my apartment this weekend and sent my box. It was about thirty pounds and it only cost $40 to send surface mail. I also got rid of a bunch of clothes I don't want anymore. Successful all in all.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Speaking of dogs

I can't wait to see these guys.





Friday, May 12, 2006

Bow wow

I'm almost certain I was in the first grade at Sunnydale Park School in DDO, Quebec, sitting on the carpet in Mrs. Barber's class. I could be mistaken.

We were studying the Chinese zodiac.

In Montreal the cutoff for grade level is not based on the calendar year (ie: all babies born in 1983) but on the academic year (from September to August over two calendar years). So in my class were kids born both in 1982 and 1983.

The two possible Chinese zodiac signs for our age group were dog and boar. I made fun of some stupid boy (I can't remember who he was now, but I remember the incident), saying that he was going to be in the year of the boar. Then I was humiliated when I found out that he wasn't, and I was.

Just this minute I've learned that I'm not at all the year of the boar but the year of the dog! It has come to my attention (thanks to my dad's amusement in forwards) that February 12th 1983 (my birthday) was the last day in the year of the dog. The 13th marked the beginning of the year of the boar.

So, sorry to that stupid boy I ridiculed. I don't know what I was thinking. But ha! I'm a dog and proud of it, and this is my year! And I was in China over the new year to ring it in.

Shake it to the left...

I'm so happy it's Friday. I can't take any more of that piercing whine that haunts my days and sometimes my dreams. In my most recent dream I was in the sun and getting a sunburn. I didn't mind at all.

D'Arcy and I are lucky enough to have similar levels of classes these days. We combine for music and sometimes other things. In the last few weeks we've played follow the leader, the wonderball, and limbo. It's pretty funny to look up from dancing and singing like a moron, trying to entertain five year olds with limited attention spans, and see yourself and your good friend from university beside you, in Korea. Sometimes you forget where you are.

I got a new wave of excitement about my upcoming school year when a professor at U of T emailed me to see if I'm interested in applying to TA and RA for him. I never thought I'd be personally contacted by the professors so that makes it nice. He seems to be a well known name in Sociology specializing in immigration so that's exciting. I've never actually taken a formal course in the subject but I'm sure it'll be fine.

I haven't mentioned that I started taking bellydancing this week. I'm going with a bunch of coworkers twice and week and it started on Monday. So far so good! It's a lot of fun though I'm not particularly graceful (never have been). I can shake it and I can remember routines, at least. It's been a while since I've taken a class like this and it reminds me of being a kid. Except that the instructor doesn't speak English. And I spend the whole hour class looking at her tiny little butt and stomach and when I glance ahead at my reflection I feel like I'm at the carnival looking into one of those terrible mirrors that spreads you out to double your real width. Ahh, bellydancing... does wonders for the self esteem.

I have nothing much planned for the weekend except to mail my box and clean my apartment. Let's see if I'm successful.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Korea, Korea

Today we had an all-day field trip to the Korean Folk Village in Suwon. It was a beautiful day and the kids had lots o' fun misbehaving and not staying together. I tell ya, the safety concerns here are much different than at home. When the kid's at my mother's daycare go on a field trip they have enough parent volunteers for two kids to every adult. Here we were about five kids to every adult, and in a place packed with kids.

The elementary and highschool kids on their school picnics looked at us like they were looking at aliens. It appears that it really shocks them not only to see foreigners speaking English for real (it's not just a crazy language they learn in school and see on TV) but to see five year olds holding our hands and interacting with us without the blink of an eye.

It's funny. When I'm walking around the streets of Korea, taking the subway, negotiating through crowds, and watching people, I admitedly see the teenagers and the adults kind of in a different way, as part of a different world. But the kids are my kids. It's crazy to me that they'll grow up to be part of the world that I'm apart from.

Similarly, many Korean people look at me as if I'm part of another world. My kids treat me like their teacher. Will they grow up and forget about the close relationships they had with foreigners, and subsequently stare at these different people in the streets? Or will they always remember it and cease to be amazed by blue eyes?

I feel like I've written this before but what can ya do.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

And the winner is...


His was the first response to win the game. Well done! And you weren't even fooled by my Chinatown in Bangkok photo. Wowzer. (He's traveled the world and knows it all so it's hardly fair I guess... check out his blog archives for all the worldly traveling.)

My dad guessed Hong Kong and I haven't even been there. Ha. I guess I've been in the airport, but come on Dad!

For those of you who don't know Korean script by now (what with all the pictures of it I am constantly posting...) shame on you.

My brilliant brother Brian came in a close second. I wondered how he'd become so knowledgable in Asian writing since I last talked to him. Turns out all the photos are named according to city. Oops.

My other brother Rick is just not as brilliant. That's what you get for being the adult, adult.

So Kiran, email me your mailing address for your super duper amazing prize. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Asia Asia everywhere

Alright kids, who wants to play a game? Below you will find photos of four countries I've visited in the past few months. Whoever can first guess them all accurately gets a real prize. I promise. I'll mail you something amazing. Ready, set, go!

City number 1

City number 2

City number 3

City number 4

I expect effort people. If you're here leave a comment for a change.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Japan continued

Saturday May 6th

On our own for the day, we woke up at 7 and were out by 7:3o, heading to Tsujiki Fish Market. Apparently it's one of the biggest/most exciting fish markets in all of Asia. I couldn't pass that up! If we wanted to see the real action (the tuna auctions) we'd have had to be there much earlier but I didn't want to push D'Arcy too far.

We got to the subway station probably at around 8:30 and followed the flow of rubber boots and foreigner faces towards the market. There was a little introductory act before the main attraction; a market that was cleaner and tidier than any other I've seen. The people were pretty quiet and not at all aggressive (it was mostly a food market with some fish, produce, and edible products of Japan). I couldn't quite tell if it was tourist geared or what. It was mostly quiet.

"This can't be it!" I thought. I'd come all this way to see fish wriggling in buckets just the way I like 'em. What was with all these nice filets lying on ice? We pressed on, passing the little overpriced sushi restaurants with lines out the door despite the early hour, and through the crazy traffic of strange motorized vehicles the marketmen were driving around in. Then we came to it.

The market was pretty good, I have to admit. Huge and sprawling but mostly of the same thing. Enourmous tuna chunks (I can't believe how meaty these fish are), squid, octopus, lots of other fish I don't know specifically. We say four men work at sawing off a quarter of an huge poisson. A man splashed us with fish water, perhaps intentionally. Another professed his love for D'Arcy. A few gestured about my height. One spoke to us in English and French and told us his salmon were from Vancouver. "Hello," D'Arcy said to the salmon. "He's dead. He will not answer" said the fisherman. True enough.

In the end I prefered Busan's Jalgachi fish market because it's right on the water and the ships are coming and going, people are doing work, and vendors are sitting on ground outside in fish guts. It felt more alive there.

After two rows of watching fish decapitation (yeah! get him!) and a number of other fascinating things, we had enough and I sought out some less pricey fresh sushi. It was delicious. This cost me $10USD for the curious. Not too bad, I suppose.
We went home and freshened up for a bit before hitting the streets and walking. We walked and walked, from Sagenjaya to Shibuya and then on to Harajuku, stopping for a tasty lunch of ramen noodles with leek and pork, and mixed veggies in a random place we finally settled on after a too-long search. It can be damn difficult choosing a restaurant in a foreign country where you want to eat good food but you don't know how to read a menu. This time it worked out well.
Harajuku was teeming with people. We went there because Mio told us that we could find cheap things there. We were walking past Dolce and Gabana and Burbury wondering what the hell she was talking about. Backtracking and asking for directions, we came to some alleys of second hand stores. They were selling used American t-shirts (in the colourful family reunion/baseball team/highschool graduating class/etc. variety) for twenty bucks. They were selling used converse for seventy!!! Ridiculous. We bought ourselves a frosty at Wendy's for less than two.
There seems to be a very strange fascination with American culture. I saw a white Corelle casserole dish with the blue flowers that everyone I've ever known owned. It was on display in a thrift shop. What is this about?

In Harajuku we saw the famous goth babydoll girls of the area. They have crazy hair and wear dresses reminiscent of Raggedy Ann though usually in black and white. They pair these dresses with fishnets, platform goth boots, and insane-o makeup. Man, the style here is different from Korea.

Our feet fell off and we went home to sleep for a couple of hours.

In the evening after Scott got home from work we met up with him and Mio and headed to an area called Ebisu which is known for its restaurants. Scott and Mio had made us reservations at a tofu restaurant that knocked my socks off, not to mention the sake. All we had was tofu but it was never in the same form twice. Magnifique!
After eating we headed back to Shibuya (again) and had a few drinks with Matt from Thornhill. Then we took a taxi home. The ten minute ride cost $16. It would cost $6 in Seoul. I can't get over the price difference between the two cities.

Sunday May 7th

Not worth decribing in detail. A breakfast of sushi, some strolling in the rain around Ueno, and a train ride through the countryside to the airport. Then a game of spending my last 1500 yen on airport souvenirs.

The end.

PS: I have many, many pictures but am too lazy to post them within the body of this post. You can look at them if you want.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Thursday and Friday in Tokyo

I can't sleep so I'll just get started.

Thursday May 4th

D'Arcy and I left school early on Thursday afternoon and headed right to the airport to catch our 6:10 flight to Narita airport. Everything was fine, particularly the individual television screens on Japan Airlines with large and modern movie selections! If only the flight was long enough to allow for an entire flick. After a train and subway journey we finally arrived in Sagenjaya where we met Scott and his lovely girlfriend Mio. By this time it was just around 11pm.

The new lovebirds had stumbled across this insane little bar that is covered head to toe in chandeliers, stuffed game, random artwork, and red velvet.

We climbed the steepest staircase of my life to the upperlevel where we had a cocktail in the six ft. by six ft. bar space. My drink was ten bones and then we had to pay a sitting fee of another ten each! Ohh the blasphemy of Tokyo had begun... and we were wondering how a bar with a seating capacity of twelve could stay in business.

From there we went on to Shibuya, this busy "known for its teenagers" area that was also featured in Lost in Translation. We went to a dance club and did a little shakin' until we could shake no more.

Friday May 5th

We slept off the night before until Scott came over to cook us breakfast. I should mention that Scott was so generous as to let D'Arcy and I christen his new apartment while he stayed at Mio's. We had a Japanese pad all to ourselves and it was fantastic. So Scott came by and made us an incredible breakfast of spinach/cream cheese omlettes, fruit, and raisin bread buns. We couldn't believe our good fortune.

We hit the streets and did some walking in the noticeably fresh, sunshiney air. Ahhh. Scott took us to some quiet temples and shrines near his house and we appreciated the private tour of less tourist populated places. Especially after the next place we hit up.

First we picked up Mio who had by then recovered from the previous night's festivities and headed all the way across town to Asakusa (emphasize the second syllable, not the third like you want to) which was TEEMING with people. Perhaps not quite as teeming as other moments to come in the weekend but man, you had to carefully plan when to cross the walkway heading towards the temple. This particular walkway is lined on either side by vendors of various kinds though I didn't take much care to check them out. I was too busy making my way along. I should mention that I felt significantly taller than the crowd at this point.

The walking around continued after seeing the temple. I ate a chocolate covered banana which is not as delicious as chocolate covered strawberries or pineapple, but is apparently a common treat in Japan. We ended up finding ourselves at an Izakaya somewhere or other around a station nearby Shibuya that is known for Izakaya.

Izakaya are traditional style Japanese eating a drinking places that I had thought were different than they are. Turns out they are just small places where people.. eat and drink. We ate all kinds of things but of particular note to me were some skewers with miso sauce, the freshest tuna sashimi I've ever had (great, really) and warm, surprisingly tasty radish.

After we ate we called it an early night and I took a real bath in a real Japanese bathtub.

It was so nice to soak in water for once. All night long, as I lay awake thinking about how I was sure I could depend on my internal clock to wake us up the next morning for an early trip to the fish market, I was amazed at how clean and soft I felt.

It's time for bed. More later.