2009년 6월 21일 일요일

My Brother Mark Visits to Korea

Last week, my oldest brother, Mark, flew to South Korea to visit me. Before he came to visit, I hadn't seen him in about 3 years. Here's his official record and impression of South Korea during his stay. Enjoy another take!
Click here to see all the photos from my brother Mark's visit to South Korea

My Week in Korea Visiting Brother Chris

by Brother Mark

First Day, Thursday

After 27 hours of traveling through San Fran and Tokyo, I finally reached my destination of Seoul. Groggy yet elated to have arrived, I had prepared Chris for what I needed. Any international flight that crosses a major ocean, no matter how much I eat on the plane, leaves me starving. So off to get food we went! This was going to be a vacation with a lot of eating and drinking!!!

Walking on the winding streets of downtown Seoul there were SO MANY young women. I counted the number of men and women on the tortuous, bright streets full of convenience stores, hotels, and open air food stands, and there were 6 women for every 4 men. Chris’s efficient efficiency apartment is just a few blocks from Sungshin Women’s University. Why had I not visited earlier?! This trip was not to be about women though. Food was on my mind.

He led me quickly down a bright pedestrian street full of jewelry and clothing stores for women until we reached a restaurant that was happening. The table-grills were prevalent, ubiquitous and popular. Chopsticks and small shot glasses full of rice vodka were lifted in the air every second. I could see the Koreans like to have fun. We ordered grilled bacon. It’s called san-keaup-so. It was accompanied by kimchi, the famous hot-n-spicy cabbage that I adore. We pigged out. They kept bringing spicy vegetables, miso soup and rice vodka. It was great. I slept well that night.

While eating grilled bacon, I remembered a question I like to ask friends: If you had to give up all meat except for one type (chicken, beef, pork, seafood, or some other type of meat), which would you choose to eat? I had always maintained pork is the meat to eat. Think about it! You get ham. You get pulled pork sandwiches. You get pork tenderloin gently baked with figs. And you get bacon.

Second Day, Friday

Chris has adopted the Asian work ethic, and he must wake up at 5 am to be at work at 6am. Quite often he works 12 or 14 hours. This Friday he gets the afternoon off to go sight-seeing around Seoul with me. I slept in. zzz. For lunch we splurged at one of Seoul’s finest restaurants, Top Cloud Grill, at the top of a skyscraper. They do not know who they are messing with. We’re Americans. I order the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. We know how to eat, and we cleaned that buffet out. We pigged out. After lunch we toured the historic royal palaces of Seoul, planned to meet some friends and got ready for the evening of more eating and drinking.

For dinner we were cajoled by a group of friends to hit another grill. I love grilled meats. Grilled bacon again. One type of pork was plain while the other was marinated in spicy Korean sauce. We pigged out. I couldn’t get enough of the kimchi. Chris even likes to grill the kimchi. We wanted more food, so we ordered beef. They served us another helping of grilled bacon. This restaurant only served pork. Mmm… bacon. I was starting to get sick of grilled bacon. The second helping of bacon was devoured anyway.

Third Day, Saturday

We awoke early to take a scheduled tour to the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ). Stepping into North Korea, although only briefly, was surreal. The DMZ is still a war zone. Justin, a friend of Chris, wanted to come on the tour, but Koreans are not allowed. A special 6 month wait list is needed for Koreans. Instead, Justin invited us to his house for a traditional home cooked meal: grilled bacon. The thought of grilled bacon for the third night in a row began to wear on Chris and me. We sat on the floor of their living room, a Korean tradition, and ate grilled bacon. We pigged out.

After dinner we sang karaoke. The 90 minute bus ride across Seoul back to Chris’s apartment had me dwelling on grilled bacon. The next day was a big day. Chris and I were considering becoming vegetarians.

Forth Day, Sunday

After visiting Chris’s favorite Christian church, we head out for lunch. Anything but grilled bacon. Ugh. Chris tells me to try a Bob Stick, which is a rice stick with meat on top. I order the beef. He orders the pork. I don’t know if it was karma or fate, or maybe it was simply bad luck, but while trying his pork Bob Stick, I was clumsy and dropped a huge piece of pork on his lap. The God of pork was talking to us. No more bacon. Fortunately, a friend of Chris’s brought us to a restaurant where we ate beef vegetable soup, cooked over an open flame at the table.

After lunch we hiked. We hiked 5 miles up a mountain half a mile tall overlooking all of Seoul. The view was amazing. At the top of the mountain I begin to open my snacks, and I enjoyed a delicious Korean Oreo cookie. I don’t know if the thin air made it taste better or if the different recipe for Korean Oreo cream caused the party in my mouth, but the cookie was as amazing as the view. I did get pissed at Chris though. He took an Oreo cookie and then traded the rest of the 3 cookies to another hiker for a raw cucumber. I burned 5000 calories to hike up a mountain and then I had to eat a raw cucumber!? I grumbled as I ate my half of the raw cucumber. I was not happy. We were beginning to act like young brothers again.

After climbing down the mountain I threatened to take him to eat grilled bacon. We ate grilled beef instead. We pigged out.

Fifth Day, Monday

This was one of the 14 hour work days for Chris. We go out for lunch. He tells me to stop mentioning grilled bacon. I say it 4 more times just to spite him. We argued like when we were younger. It’s clear we are brothers. And it is nearly time for me to return to the USA. We order beef and cheese bi-bim-bap, which is a super hot rice bowl full of beef, cheese and vegetables. The stone bowl is seriously about 500 degrees, and the rice and vegetables cook as you eat. More kimchi. Koreans never get sick of kimchi, and I still adore the mouth-watering spicy cabbage. We pigged out.

Sixth Day, Tuesday

I flew back to the USA. My goodbye to Chris is short, fun and full of love. It’s a quick, manly hug and slap on the back. I don’t like sad goodbyes. It will be a long, long time before I can eat bacon again.

-Brother Mark

Click here to see all the photos from my brother Mark's visit to South Korea

2009년 5월 16일 토요일

My Birthday

April 8th was my birthday, which I celebrated in Korea.

Near my work, I like to get coffee from a nearby coffee shop, and the owner has gotten to know me a little. She's Korean and her English ability is minimal, but when she found out it was my birthday, here's what she did for me. (^.^)

Dance Performance: Ballerina Loves a B-Boy

Well, thanks to my friend Gahyun, I was finally able to do something that I'd been wanting to do for a long time!!! And that was: See the Korean dance performance called "Ballerina Loves a B-Boy".

It's a dance performance, like a play, which has no words. The title explains the entire story. Honestly, the story itself is nothing to rave about. It's pretty generic. It provides a backdrop for the dancing, a way of entertaining the audience and giving us something to follow along with.

The dancing, however, was amazing! I TOTALLY recommend this performance to anyone!!!

Details: We saw it at a theater behind Doksu Gong Palace - which is near City Hall.
Tickets were 40,000 won each.

During the performance, everyone was allowed to take pictures and encouraged to shout and cheer. After the show, the performers went on stage and invited the audience to come up for pictures.

The theater was small - so ALL the seats were up close and personal. At one point during the performance, there were 5 dancers on stage. Four of them stopped dancing and found empty seats in various parts of the theater, sat down and started cheering on the 5th dancer. It was really funny seeing some of the audience reactions.

My FAVORITE part of the performance is represented by the pictures below that are dark. The dancers put on dark clothes and creepy traditional Korean masks. Then they started moving in strange ways and dancing while creepy music was playing. It was really great. hahaha

Okay, here are some pictures and a video I found on YouTube!

On my left and right are dancers from the performance. ^^

Above are pictures of the ballerina and the B-Boy. I love that style. She's really cute.

The girl on the left is the dancer I got my picture with.

He's actually spinning. My camera is just that awesome.

Awesome picture, too, even though I think his leg should be more horizontal.

Here, she's trying to impress the B-Boys with her ballet. Great picture, though, eh?

Here is THE ballerina and her two friends before she met the B-Boy.

The two pictures above represent my favorite part of the show! It was SO cool!

I didn't take the video (below), I just found it on YouTube. The dancers in the video aren't the ones I saw, but the routines are the same.

2009년 5월 10일 일요일

Korean Baseball

I'm a fan of Korean Baseball. They're really great - winning the Gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, and barely losing the Gold medal to Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Championship series.

So, in April, a student of mine suggested that I go see a Korean Baseball game. Admission is really cheap - only about 5-6$ (according to the current exchange rate). He told me that there would be an exciting game the next day, the final game in a series between two rivals: SK versus Bears! SK is an Incheon team and the Bears are a Seoul team. He told me it's a great experience and that I needed to buy some beer and spicy chicken.

Well, unfortunately he had to cancel at the last minute because something important came up. BUT - thankfully, after looking had for other people who would be willing to take me - I found two students! So we went, and we had a blast!

What's funny is that, before the game, they wanted to buy those long plastic balloon things. During the game, the idea is that you bang them together and it makes a 'PANG' noise. It might not be too impressive at first, but when you have a stadium of fans doing it - well, it works out pretty well. Okay - back to the story. So they tried to buy me the RED ones, which means I'd be cheering for the SK team. But I'm a Bears fan!!! And I'm from Chicago, and our American football team is also called the Bears... that and the fact that the Doosan Bears are the BEST! :)

Well, anyway, we sat near the SK fan base - but the Doosan fan base that night was about... well, at least 5x bigger than the SK. But actually, sadly, my team lost... ㅠ.ㅠ

But the fake contention between us during the game was fun and funny. I would make sure to be loud and obnoxious whenever my team did something good :) But it was hard because my team lost 8 to 2. Suck!

Thanks Jesse and Vivi!

Here's a bunch of pictures from the baseball game! Jessie is wearing the skirt and Vivi i wearing the jeans.

Korean Christian Evangelists

Korean extreme Christian evangelists are taking advantage of technology. Some of them attach huge megaphones to he top of their car/truck/vehicle and drive around playing a pre-recorded message spreading the gospel... or rather, a "believe in Jesus or go to hell" message.

Other extreme evangelists take another approach, similarly. The Korean people tend not to like this way of spreading their message. I agree with them. It's inconsiderate, not personal, not loving... and not effective. But I snapped some pictures to show you!

You can see the megaphone on top of his little outfit. At the time took the pictures, though, he wasn't playing his message.

2009년 5월 4일 월요일

<3 I'm in love with Park Soo Ae (팍수애)

사랑해요 팍수애!

I love you Park Soo Ae! (Her stage name is "Soo Aeh")

She's an actress in Korea. She plays in a movie as a girl named "Sunny" who goes to Vietnam in search of her husband. The only way she can get there is to become a traveling singer. The picture of her in the red dress above is from the movie. The movie is called "Somewhere Far Away" (or 님은만곳에), which is also the name of a classic Korean song which helps for the theme of the movie. The movie was pretty good - but the soundtrack was REALLY good, so I went out and bought it.

I always tell my students that I'm in love with her and I ask them if they can introduce me. :) Heck, South Korea is small. It should be pretty easy to meet famous people, RIGHT??? Especially since I'm in the capital!

In any case, Soo Ae is two years older than me (she was born in 1980) - she's beautiful - she's a good actress - she can sing - and from talking to people... I think she has a cool personality, so I'd like to meet her! (^.^)

In any case, although I'm not REALLY a fanatic (but sometimes I pretend to be because it's fun), this post is my tribute to Soo Ae:

To finish off my tribute, here are two videos from Youtube that have Soo Ae in them. The first one is of her being interviewed. I have no idea what they're saying in the interview, but it's related to that movie I mentioned.

The second video is one of the songs from the movie being sung by some famous Korean singer, and Soo Ae is in a lot of the video clips from the movie, so you can check it out.

Korean Roll-Away Restaurants

Want to start a restaurant in Korea, but think rent is too expensive? Or perhaps the location you always wanted is taken? Or maybe it's too far from home? Well YOU'RE IN LUCK!!!

It so happens that in Korea - you can take your restaurant with you! OFFICIALLY, these restaurants are called, "To-Go Carts", just translate that phrase into Korean.

They have this rolling counter-top, probably about 4x6ft - and it has a little roof over it. That's where the large tent-like canopy comes from. And this cart has little plastic stools that sit on the counter and EVERYTHING you need tucks into it. It takes quite a while to set up everything or take everything down, but you can roll this little restaurant to the best locations in Seoul (although, I don't know how the system REALLY works, here. Once you have a location, they always seem to go back to that location).

Anyway - it's interesting... in the middle of downtown Seoul, among the skyscrapers - it's interesting to see little tent restaurants. It's like, Korea has two cultures mixed - old and new. I'll talk about that in another post. But these little restaurants are pretty cool (although, to my dismay, they most often sell SEAFOOD. YUCK.) And it's Korean tradition to eat here. It's pretty cool. I'll snap some better pictures > but for now, here's what you get!

The Biggest Church... in the world?

OH MY GOSH - I have SO MANY new posts to make. I'm so sorry about this... keep reading!

This one's about the biggest church in the world - membership-wise. Korea is home of Yoido's Full Gospel Church. They boast about 1,000,000 members. Now, the church can't FIT that many people, as you'll see in the pictures, but adding together all of the smaller group cells and other parts... that's what you get. They own a Christian newspaper in Seoul and a University, as well as a small mountain near North Korea that they use for praying. They have a building and a bunch of other stuff at the top where people are constantly praying, all the time, and they provide free transortation there to and from the church multiple times a day.

Anyway - if you want to learn more about it, you can check them out on wikipedia or you can visit there website. There's so much information about this church elsewhere on the internet... I don't think I need to type it all out. It's not my church - I just visited once to see what it was like!

After the service, Ellie and I went in the Welcome Room for a long lecture from the only foreign elder of the church. I snuck a picture during his presentation.

Bob Sticks! (밥 스티크)

I know what you're thinking! WHO IS BOB??? Well... Bob is great. He makes delicious snacks in Korea. But actually Bob isn't a man. "Bob" is a word you get when you take the Korean word for rice and translate it into English and then misspell it. If you want to pronounce the Korean word for rice, you need to say "Bop".

So, near my church in Dobong (도봉) there is a little snack stand, shown in the picture.

Anyway, a man and his wife work there, and they sell rice sticks. I Think in the picture you can see that they have hot iron molders. They start by putting in some kind of batter, and then they pack it with steamed rice. The batter is ONLY to allow the rice to stick together when it's all cooked. Then, they take toppings of your choice and spread them across the top. When it's all finished, they put it on a foil wrapper that conveniently slides away from a thin piece of cardboard as you eat it. It's SO delicious and cheap! About $1 each!

They have a pizza bop stick... a fried chicken cutlet bop stick with Japanese Tonkatsu sauce on top... and many many other kinds!

April Basic Plus Class

Here's one of the smaller classes I taught in April. It was fun :)
The level is Basic English - which is almost the lowest level of English we teach at YBM Premier. Of 10 levels, it's level 2. In level 1, minimal English is actually spoken. It's mostly Korean.

The pictures look like antiques because they were ACTUAL photos taken, not digital - and I had to scan them and improve the color. :) I bet you think this class looks young. Actually, two of them have finished University, and the other two are almost finished.

Singing Room

In Korea - Singing Rooms (노래망 ) are famous. These businesses are everywhere. You walk in a building and you pay about $10 to spend one hour in a private room that has a large TV, a couple microphones, and a couch or some nice chairs. The TV is only for karaoke and music videos. It's fun to go to these places with friends and dance and sing. You can bring food if you want, or you can buy some snacks there.

The only people I usually go to singing rooms with are Nuri and Ellie. They both have very good singing voices. I love listening to Nuri sing - so last time we went, I took some pictures. Don't get the wrong impression... I was very sneaky about it. She didn't allow me to take them - it was a surprise! (^.^)

She's not waving to the camera in that picture... she's trying to slap it out of my hand - I just got lucky :D