2008년 12월 28일 일요일

A Brilliant Idea in Korea

In Korea, they have exercise equipment placed throughout Seoul. Most of the time they're in parks, but they're also on the side of bike paths and on top of mountains... and MANY people use the equipment. It's nice, simple, and weather proof.

What a great idea! One thing I really admire is the Korean's determination to be healthy and get exercise. Actually... I see it more in the elderly than in the youth, here. A LOT more.

The exercise equipment is a really great idea - cheap, and practical. This is the kind of thing that I think we need in the US, where so many people are overweight that it's considered "normal" to be chubby... and everyone who's not overweight is "skinny". It's ridiculous.

Here's an example of what the equipment can look like:

A Romantic Couple

I saw a nice young couple walking along the stream near my house while I was on my way to the PC방 (here). It was a cold night, so the young man took off his jacket and gently placed it on the girl's shoulders. How romantic!

Then the girl pulled it off and pushed it against his chest.

Then the guy gently placed it over her shoulders again.

Then the girl pushed it off her shoulders and let it fall on the street before hocking a giant loogy and spitting it in the gutter.

Then the guy picked up the jacket, brushed it off, and forcefully put it on her shoulders and held on to it so she couldn't take it off again.


How romantic! LOL - Sorry, I don't have a picture of this one.

2008년 12월 27일 토요일

Police Officers like Donuts - Even in Korea

Okay okay okay! I could NOT help myself! I was riding the bus home from work today... TODAY... and when the bus was stopped in traffic, I looked out the window and saw this. And this is one of the benefits of carrying your camera around with you everywhere you go!

Even police officers in Korea like donuts!

This is a police officer - this is what the uniforms look like. Of course, they aren't armed with guns. People in Korea don't have guns.

My First Suit and Tie

Here's a picture of me wearing my first suit and tie. Actually... it's NOT the first time I've worn a suit and tie... it's just the first time I've worn a suit and tie that I've bought with my OWN money. My other suit(s) and tie(s) have always been rented/borrowed/handed down.

I wasn't going to buy a tie because I already have one that my dad gave me in high school. :) It's blue, and it's just fine - but when I walked past this tie, I had to buy it. It lured me in.

Cool huh?

My Neighbors

In November, I started an English Discussion group in my neighborhood. The idea was that I wanted to meet people who live near me and who speak English. So I put up some fliers and got some responses. Of the responses I got, I met two people who consistently want to meet and have conversation.

Jay - is a Korean man who has done a lot of traveling. He's lived in the USA and Singapore and probably some other places - and he's visited many more places than that. He married a Chinese woman, and they're both very nice.

Amy - Amy is married with two children. She spends her time taking care of her kids, and has studied English in California for a while.

Both want to practice English so they don't lose it. We discuss anything, and it's quite good. I really enjoy it. We talk about politics, religion, and everyday stuff.

Anyway - here's a picture. :)

As a side note... you'd probably never guess - but we're in a Dunkin Donuts. They're a BIT nicer in Seoul. :)

2008년 11월 29일 토요일

Korea and Her Neighbors

I decided to post a clip from a book I read about the History of Korea - 1900's till today. I thought it was very well written and a very interesting read. It cited lots of sources, including clips from other books like the following. If you take the time to read this post, I bet you'll be glad you did.

From a the book, "Korea and Her Neighbors" - written by a very respected travel writer, Isabella Bird Bishop, published in London in 1898. Her conclusions were not hastily formed but were the fruit of "long and intimate study" during four separate trips throughout Korea between January 1894 and March 1897.

Her first impressions of Korea were mixed. She entered a peninsula through the southern port of Pusan (Busan)-- "a miserable place," similar, as she later found, to "the general run of Korean towns." When she arrived in Seoul, however, even though it was in the depths of winter cold, her reaction was much more favorable. She judged that its location, between North and South Mountains, was the most attractive setting of all the world's capitals. She admired the appearance of the typical Korean-- "resembling neither the Chinese nor the Japanese, he is much better looking than either, and his physique is far finer than that of the latter." She also learned, in her more than three years of traversing the peninsula, that the climate was "as nearly perfect as it could be," neither too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter, with nine months of clear blue skies and pleasantly crisp temperatures.

She was surprised to find that Seoul, the capital of the nation, had no buildings with even a second story. Aside from its palaces and shrines, most other structures were small huts, with only one or no windows, and with walls of clay plastered on willow or bamboo frames, under thatched roofs. These houses had no running water and no toilet. Sewage was disposed of (as had been true also in Europe a century or so earlier) by dumping it in shallow trenches that ran along the streets, washed only by the rains. The air was polluted by human excrescence, causing the worst stench, Mrs. Bishop reported, that she ever had encountered except in Peking (which is in China).

Cooking was done in a dirt-floored hut attached to the main room of the house where the men entertained their male friends, and where the family slept on the floor. The floor was covered with oiled paper above flues that warmed the floor while it carried the smoke and heat from the kitchen fire. In the rainy season (which fortunately came in the spring and summer while the rice was growing in paddies) the women washed the family clothing by pounding on stones in the ditches--and during the rest of tee year in streams. Womens' work was interminable, from early morning until late at night. Men dressed in white garb; and to launder it the women ripped the garments apart to insure thorough cleansing, and after each wash had to sew them together again. Heat for cooking and for winter warmth came from small braziers, which required the gathering by women and children of small twigs, leaves, and branches, which they searched out from surrounding hills.

The role of women in the society was a curious mixture. Within the home, women exercised authority in all matters domestic, even over their husbands and sons. A wife was known as "the inside master," just as her husband was "the outside master." The family finances were managed by the women and, however meager these resources might be, the women were expected to stretch them to meet the family's basic needs. Young girls typically lived happily, but they were married very young and without a choice of their own. Generally they didn't even see the groom's face until after the wedding. Then they were taken to the home of the groom, where they came under the stern and normally harsh governance of his mother. Slavery, buy then nearly extinct, was restricted to females, except for a few males who had to sell themselves to pay their debts. A slave girl would be married by her master to a free male, who would be paid for his subsequent services with food, clothing, and a place in which to live. Daughters born of a slave mother were retained in slavery, but sons were granted their freedom.

The streets in the daytime were crowded with small Mongolian ponies and oxen loaded with huge bundles of straw, along with carts often pulled by hand. Men strolled the streets aimlessly or on errands, with many squatting by the roadsides to play the Korean chess game "go" or to chat. Other men carried on their backs, in wooden frames called "chiqes", loads weighing as much as two hundred pounds. Women were not allowed outside their homes except after dark, when men were forbidden to traverse the streets. To guard against occasional encounters the women wore shawls to cover their faces. Children rollicked in the streets or open fields, playing their many games with home-built toys, or flew kites, and young girls excelled in swinging on very high swings and in throwing one another into the air on teeter-totters. On street corners there often were story-tellers, groups of singers, fortune-tellers, or acrobats, surrounded by crowds of men and children. But Mrs. Bishop failed to note most of the fun and games. Seoul, she reported, "lacks every charm possessed by other cities. It has no ruins, no libraries, no literature, and lastly an indifference to religion that is wihtout parallel." This was her first impression. Later, she learned to love Seoul's easy relaxation and social friendliness. "I had known it for a year," she confessed, "before I appreciated it, or fully realized that it is entitled to be regarded as one of the great capitals of the world. Few capitals are as beautifully situated.

2008년 11월 20일 목요일

I Want Nobody but You

Seriously, you can NOT walk around in Seoul, South Korea, without hearing this song. If you don't like music, if you don't listen to the radio, heck, even if you don't like to shop - you WILL, at some point, hear this song!

That being said, it's really catchy. When I heard it, I actually enjoyed it. When I later found out it was a song by the Wondergirls... I was truly shocked.

So, I decided to share this video with you. The first 2 minutes are extra. If you want the actual song, start watching at the 2 minute point.

Without further adeau - here's my favorite song by the Wondergirls.

This girl is cute

I don't know who this girl is or what she's saying... but she's cute. See how cute Korean girls are?

So I decided to put her on my blog. Also - she likes to play in the mud, and that's always a good quality. Did you know that Korea has some of the world's LARGEST mud banks on the west coast? It's true. Actually, they have an annual MUD festival. I was going to go this year, but I JUST missed it. I think it's in August or the end of July. Anyway - I decided to go in 2009 instead. :) Can't wait! :D

2008년 11월 12일 수요일

Soraksan Mountain

The last weekend in October, I had plans to visit Soraksan Mountain with a friend - but unfortunately, those plans fell through. So, on that Saturday, I woke up and decided I would go anyways... alone! So I pulled out my travel book and made some quick plans - cleaned my apartment - packed - and took the subway to the Bus Terminal in the south end of Seoul.

I was able to catch a bus to Sokcho (속초). It took 4 hours arrive, from 3:30pm to 7:30pm, where I quickly found an inexpensive motel near the beach on the eastern sea of Korea. That night, I knew I'd be waking up early and hiking, so I ate dinner and then just got some rest in the motel. The next morning, I woke up at about 6am, took a shower, and left to go hiking! A local bus took me to the base of the mountain, and the gate of Soraksan national park. From there, I took the 3.5 hour trail to Ulsambawi Rock - although I conquered it in much less time since I was a solo traveler and because I'm a fast paced type of person. I spent some time at the top before coming down.

Unlike many people in the City of Seoul, the mountain people were incredibly outgoing and friendly! They were happy to make small talk,or exchange a smile or word. In Seoul... most people just don't do that. They avoid eye contact with strangers (despite the fact that you are surrounded by dozens of strangers daily at any given time). They almost never say hello... unless they're selling something. It's a bit of a downer. So that made this escape to the mountains particularly delightful.

Korea, in general, has great land. It's really beautiful - filled with mountains and valleys. This is one reason why the Korean people are so tough. You wouldn't BELIEVE me if I tried explaining the average age of the hikers in Korea. It's probably about 40 (quite a LOW ended estimate). I'm not counting the kids that don't walk by themselves. YES - parents bring kids to the mountian who can't walk, and the parents end up walking for TWO as they carry their kids. And then there are the ajumas! I mean... I saw women who were DEFINITELY in their 50s or 60s climbing the mountain. And they weren't going all that slow. They are TOUGH! It's really shocking. You NEVER see things like that in America... at least I didn't!

Since this time of the year was such a popular time to visit the mountian - when I was climbing down, it was similar to walking down the street in Jongno, a very famous part of Seoul. A steady traffic of people were going up and down, and I was like the "crazy driver" speeding past everyone, weaving in and out and between.

I took lots of pictures - drank some natural mineral water - had some great encounters with strangers - tried some corn-on-a-stick (but it wasn't good... but then again I'm from Illinois where we grow some of the best corn in the world) - got some GREAT excersize - and saw some BEAUTIFUL scenery.

When I got back to the motel, I packed my things (I didn't bring much) and went to eat lunch before going to the bus terminal. After lunch, I learned that my bus wouldn't leave until 3:30pm, later than I'd expected. It was only noon. At first I was bummed. Then I realized that there was a sandy beach only 5 minutes away by foot! The weather was GREAT. The sun was bright, the air was crisp but not too cool, and the sky was a clear blue. So I bought an ice tea, found a great bench which was quiet and peaceful - close to the beach but not too close - and there I sat. I smoked a cigar and read my Bible... and just soaked in the atmosphere. After a day of hiking... it was really great. And 2 hours was the perfect amount of time.

I arrived back at my apartment in Seoul at 9:30pm. Here are some of my many pictures documenting this trip. I'm really glad I went. Wish you could've been there, too!

2008년 11월 5일 수요일

My not-so-Halloweeny Halloween

Well... My Halloween wasn't very Halloweeny - but I still had a great time. My October work schedule ended and I had 4 days off: Thursday (10/30), Friday (10/31), Saturday (11/1), and Sunday (11/2).

I spent Thursday relaxing and doing lazy things. Friday- I was more productive, and at night I met a class of mine from October for dinner. We ate my FAVORITE Korean food, Yongyum Galbi. I'll make another blog post about that later - after I record a video on how to eat it. It'll be better.

Anyway, after we ate dinner, we went to a tea place; and after that, we decided to go to Namsan Mountain in the middle of Seoul. It's one of the most famous places for tourists to visit because it provides a GREAT lookout across Seoul. I'll probably have to make another post about that, too, so you can see.

Anyway, it ended up being a great night. Left to right: Christina, Irene, Me, Keira. Christina and Irene remind me a little of my friends Peggy Loo and Christine Chen, too. :)

Art by Korean Elementary School Kids

I was coming home via the subway the other week in October and saw a bunch of pictures being showcased that had been done by some local Korean Elementary School kids. I thought they were pretty funny, so I decided to take a few pictures and post them on my blog.

It's just so interesting, especially in the case of kids. You can see what kinds of things they learn in school... and you can see a little piece of how they see the world in their heads... hahaha

Check it out:

2008년 10월 2일 목요일

Somebody stole my... WHAT?!?

Okay, so I was in the subway. It was the same night I saw that dude spitting near the pay phones (see previous post). I was waiting to meet 김누리 Kim Nuri, so I stopped at a little grocery store attached to the subway - nearby. I bought a few cans of coke and pepsi - and a loaf of bread. When Nuri arrive, we were browsing some of the shops and I left my "bag of groceries" on a large metal freezer-type-of-thing.

I kid you not... it was out of my sight for TEN minutes - and when we came back? It was GONE! WOW! I was SO surprised! When we went to a shop, Nuri said "Chris! You left your back!" And I said, "No big deal. It only has bread nad some pop in it. Who would take that?" Well... SOMEBODY did take it! Crazy. I hope they were REALLY hungry and thirsty! I hope it was worth it. WOW. If somebody wanted that stuff so badly, I would just give it to them. No need to steal that.

Anyway - I didn't care... I was just shocked. Here's a picture of where I left my bag.

In the Subway - something gross

So I was standing in the subway and I saw this guy leaning up against the wall, facing it, with his head against his arms. He was making a loud hocking noise and spitting some NASTY right on the floor between the pay phones! It was so gross... I can't believe he was doing it right there like that!

This is where he was standing.

Here's a picture of the junk he was spitting. Pretty sick, huh? :) I thought you'd like to see!


I met GaHyun because she goes to my church and she also goes to the same University that Ellie goes to... and she's in the YWAM group... and she speaks English very well. So we're friends.

On this day, we played in the water after church and had a picnic. Sujin was there, too. She took the picture. It was fun :) Below, Sujin really wanted to take another picture of me jumping. She's surprisingly good at it... like some kind of bizzare talent. So - there I am.

One of my August classes

Here's a class I had in August. Aren't they cute? haha - we had fun. This picture was taken after the last class. I just thought you'd like to see what one of my classes looked like. Depending on the time of day - they look differently. These students all happen to be University students, but it's not always the case.

October is here!

It's here! It's here! My FAVORITE month! YESSSSSSSSSS

Oh I love this weather so much! It's probably thanks to my dad - for taking us camping every Fall season to "The Fall Campout" where we would drive up to Wisconsin and camp in Dundee near an awesome hill. We would always do cool things - definitely some of the BEST memories of my childhood. It started when my dad and his old high school friends decided they would all meet every Fall and camp together with their families.

We had a Chili dump - where we would make a famous food called "chili". Each family would make a pot of chili (which is like a stew with tomatoes and ground beef and peppers and a few veggies and whatever else you decide to put in) - and they would make enough for their own family members. Then all of the families would come together and dump the chili into one big pot - so you never know what you'll get! My dad loves to make HOT chili, but I remember that year, dad made OUR family's chili EXTRA hot to compensate for everyone elses chili which he knew wouldn't be hot! :)

Another time, my dad's friend Pete brought some hatchets and a wooden throwing board. We would take about 12 paces from the board and throw the hatchet at a target - such as a playing card. The goal was to cut the card in half.

At night, we would get glow sticks and climb the hill - but we always waited until it was really dark. Somebody always ended up breaking open their glow stick and dumping it everywhere to make random things glow.

Anyway - in Korea, I'm happy October is here. Tonight... perhaps I'll smoke a cigar.

2008년 9월 25일 목요일

Egg Church

My friend Sujin lives in Dobong - near the Dobong Fire Station and a large department store called HomeEver. Also in this area is a very large church building that's shaped like an Egg, so when I went to visit Sujin for the first time she introduced it as the "Egg Church". I asked her why she doesn't go there since it's closer and she told me they believe some strange things that aren't really Christian teachings.

That was several months ago. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago - I was talking to the pastor of my church, and I told him I would catch a bus near the Egg Church. He laughed and then said I shouldn't let them hear me call it the Egg Church. So I asked him why and he said it's not an egg; but they believe it's a spaceship and when Jesus comes he will take the whole building.

"REALLY!?! That's SO interesting!" I said to him.
If you'll notice - the egg-shaped spaceship has little connectors to the building, just like a shuttle would have - and also, above the spaceship is a section of the building where people can buy lofts to live in - and within the church, it's supposed to be a really great honor to own one of those.
This is just one example of a cult church in Korea.

So I took a picture of the egg-shaped spaceship church for you to see. ^.^

2008년 9월 17일 수요일

Lee Hyo Ri - U Go Girl (With 낯선) MV

Below is a video of Lee Hyo Ri. She's very popular in Korea. Recently, in one of my classes, I asked my students "who is the most beautiful person in Korea" and some of them said "Lee Hyo Ri". She's a pop singer who has been around remarkably long. Most pop singers are famous for some years and then replaced by newer younger ones. But Lee Hyo Ri has won many awards here and keeps coming out with hit songs.

Lol - I'm almost positive you will NOT like this song... but let me tell you... it's popular here. And it's actually really cute when Korean girls imitate Hyo Ri from this video when she dances around and says "okay!" - hahaha

Check it out. Also - do an image search for "Lee Hyo Ri" to see how beautiful she is - this video doesn't do her that much justice, in my opinion.

2008년 8월 15일 금요일

Koreans don't know street names

Okay - well, here's something that's shockingly bizarre to Westerners when coming to Korea. In Korea - they don't know the street names of even the busiest and most common streets! No joke!

There's a very busy street running right down the middle of Jongno - a famous part of Seoul. It goes past a cluster of famous locations and tourist areas, such as Insadong, Myongdong, Seoul Tower, Doksugong Palace... and several other locations. When I first arrived in Korea I wanted to learn my way around as quickly as possible, so I asked somebody, "what's this street, here?" as I pointed the aformentioned street.

"I don't know..." they said.

I was blown away. Since then, I've learned, Korean people just don't consider street names. Nobody knows the street names! It's crazy (from my perspective)!

This probably brings up a bunch of questions. So how do Korean people contemplate directions? There are a few ways.

1) What area of the city do you live in? Different parts of the city have different names. The city is sectioned off.

2) Are you near any famous landmarks or mountains? Those have names.

3) Are you near a subway stop? The subway system in Korea is great. So you can ask a taxi to take you to part of the city - and you can just name a subway stop and they'll take you there.

That's about it. And that's how you have to travel.

I hope this LONG overdue blog entry clarifies any misunderstandings! It's VERY difficult for my friends back home to understand why I don't know my own address - where I live! I don't know what street I live on... etc. It's not common knowledge, even for the locals! lol

Don't ask me how DHL or UPS or the mail system works... - I can guess, but that would make this post a lot longer and more boring. Suffice it to say, they have a system that works.

I know this is a poor analogy... but this is how I think about it. I think about a messy office. If a stranger walks in, you can't find ANYTHING because it's organized in a way that only the office owner knows (like a certain person's house that I know!). But to the office owner, when you ask for something, they can get it very quickly.

Get it? Got it? Good!

Wonder Girls! - So Hot [MV] English Subbed

Sorry this post is so late!

If you've been following my blog since I started it - when I had my first job in Incheon - you might remember me talking about the Wonder Girls. They are a Korean pop group - and they're very popular. You can always hear their new songs playing when you walk down the street in front of shops in the city. I posted their first hit single "Tell me" when I started this blog. I thought I'd give you an update. lol - because they have a new song that is very popular. So here's the music video.

Anyway - of course, they are very cute girls - but they're very young. They're all teenagers. I think the youngest of them is... 15 or 16. I don't like the first video I posted "Tell Me" - but actually I don't think this video/song is so bad.

My friend Forrest HATES it and everything they represent. hahaha

2008년 8월 3일 일요일

Severance Hospital - EXPLANATION!!!

Okay!!! One of my students at YBM was so curious after I told her what "severance" means in English, she looked up the reason why many hostpitals and medical services in Korea have the name "severance" on them!

By the way - if you didn't read my previous post on the huge, well known "Severance Hospital" that I wrote in July 2008, go read it! It's short and has a picture.

So, apparently, "Severance" is the last name of an English speaking foreigner that came to Korea and opened hospitals and medical services! Thank goodness! That makes a LOT more sense! And it just happens that, in Korea, many Koreans misassociate the word "Severance" with positive things instead of remembering the guy.

How interesting! If I can get more information on this dude, maybe I'll make a third post on this topic.

Sunday, 3 August, 2008 - a great day

Today I went to church in Dobong, again. It's so nice! And every time I go there, I think to myself, "wow! Such a nice area." If I could live in Dobong, I might just do it.

Anyway, there's a special walk that I like to take after church. There's a nice stream and, in certain spots, lots of Korean kids and families like to play there in the water. It's probably about 2 feet deep, maybe a little more. Along the waterway, you can see lots of people doing different things: playing in the water, playing basketball, jogging, riding bikes, and other stuff; but you can also see the nice view of the mountains, the sky... it's just a great walk to take after church. I'm not sure if I could ever get tired of it.

So, today after church, Sujin and I walked back to the area near where she lives and she coaxed me into going into the water. I was reluctant, at first, but it was such a nice day! I knew I would get all wet.

Anyway, when I got in, there were some little kids. One of them could speak English. She was definitely in grade school - and not higher than 4th grade. Her English was actually pretty good, and of course the kids are cute. They started a splash fight with me and asked a few questions. She told me her mom made her study English.

It was a great day. (^_^)