Cute Umbrellas and Trees with I.V.’s

It is raining like cats and jindo geh’s today with quite a bit of thunder, and it’s not even monsoon season yet.  People in Korea are constantly putting umbrellas in those plastic baggies so that they won’t get water everywhere, which makes sense.  However at work places, there’s usually a bucket that everyone puts their umbrellas in.  A week or so ago, I bought a cheap but decent looking white umbrella with one of the J shaped handles (I prefer those to the collapsable kind).  I put it into the bucket at work and when I went to leave later, I found that it was gone!  Someone had taken my umbrella!  Luckily, there was another one in the room I was teaching in that was left behind months ago.  But still, this might deter me from buying a pretty designer umbrella in the future.  Mmm…. maybe not (the umbrellas are so cute here).

jindo dog

(korean Jindo dog)

While out on another one of my walks this past week, I noticed these trees in a certain area (near a nicer apartment building) have IV’s hooked up to them.  Trees with IV bags.  I guess they are often filled with saccharin, pesticides or medicine, and are especially good for trees that are surrounded by a lot of concrete and don’t get a lot of nutrition otherwise.  These trees seemed to be surrounded by enough other greenery, but perhaps not. 

I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this in America, but maybe I’m just not going to the right kind of places.  Maybe these trees below need something extra.  They look a little strange.  Actually the trees here in generally are a lot shorter and skinnier than American trees.  Just like people! (I can’t talk b/c i’m short too….)

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“Do You Know South Korea?”

Yesterday I went out to a few places, including my first visit to Itaewon, which is kind of an international neighborhood.  I had to wait a little longer for the subway to get there, because apparently there was an accident and few cars derailed one stop from where I was getting on.  No injuries, but it did slow down the process a bit.

After taking the long ride, once I stepped out of the subway exit, I almost freaked out because I saw some many westerners in Itaewon.  It’s a bit of a culture shock if you can count the number of westerners you’ve seen so far on two hands.  I’ll have to go back and explore it during the day, but I did see there were quite a few restaurants, including some unhealthy fast food that I may crave in a month or so- KFC and Taco Bell. Itaewon is the place where a lot of military folk hang out too, so there’s a mix of them, teachers, other workers, people running restaurants from other countries, etc.  Korea in general is a pretty homogenous society though, so this neighborhood is interesting to see.

Anyway overall I had a good time.  I had to make sure to leave in time to get back home because the subway here stops operating so early- ridiculous.  I was really tired though so it didn’t really bother me.  The nice Welsh girl I met told be about this neat video called “Do You Know South Korea?”.  This is how you are supposed to use vimeo.  If only I had the time and patience.  Hopefully I will in two months when my work schedule changes. 

Scary Bus Ride

Transportation in Seoul is a pretty wonderful thing.  If you’ve lived in a larger city, it’ll be similar to what you’re used to.  But for me coming from Indiana, the idea of subways and taxis at every corner is something new.  For most of the transporatation here (including most taxis) you can use your “t money card” (remember that gold thing I showed you on my bank card?) to pay for your transportation.  You can also use it at a few places like 7-11 and little shops to buy newspapers and such.  Some people have a sort of t money card attached to their cellphone, like a charm, and they are so cute!  You just put it on the scanner and go.

Anyway the Seoul subway system is great, pretty clean, except that it stops at midnight.  Now, I haven’t even stayed out that late since I gotten here, but I imagine a time will come when that may have to happen.  The busses might run a tiny bit later but I’m not entirely sure yet.  Not sure why they stop the trains so early.  Some say it’s so the taxis can make more money.  Some say it’s to keep them free of riff-raff.  Either way, I think they need to stay open until at least 2am.  That’ll force the club goers to stay out until 5am when the subway starts again.

Every afternoon I have to ride the bus home and we drive on this scary thing, almost round-about thing.  Here is a video of what I experience on the way home, except it’s like 100 times less scary than in real life.  I ALWAYS feel like the bus is going to tip over the bridge into the Han River because of how fast we are going.  Sometimes I sit there and think about what I would do if our bus did fall into the river, how could I get out while the bus is filling with water, etc.  These thoughts come into my mind because of the horror I experience every Mon-Fri afternoon!

(Around 25 seconds you’ll see the some art that looks like people climbing)

Children’s Park and Cherry Blossoms

On the bus now, my first time using the wordpress iPhone app.

Anyway this morning after I got off the bus I ran into some people I knew from work. They showed me a short cut that goes through Children’s Grand Park. This “park” features gardens, amusement park, sculptures, water park, picnic areas, pavilions, and even a zoo! The weather has been really nice this week and the cherry blossom trees are finally blooming so I decided to take the shortcut in the afternoon too. I managed to get myself a tiny bit lost (the Korean side streets are crazy and not numbered like in the U.S.) but I managed to find my way out. There were a lot of people out so it was a nice sight to see. I was getting hot too so I took off my trench coat. I swear Korean people do not sweat. And they don’t get as hot as Americans. Hence the lack of deodorant here (you can find it in but it’s difficult to do and expensive). Good thing I stocked up before I came here!

Here’s a picture I took walking through the park.

20110414-042541.jpg

Radiation Rain, Go Away

Today while I was riding on the bus, my aunt called and told me not to run around wet, but to buy an umbrella as soon as I got off the bus at the nearest 7-11.  She was watching on the news that there was a possibility of some of the radioactive rain headed to Korea since it was raining today.  After getting off at my stop, I grabbed one of the free newspapers to cover my head (more like my face) until I reached a “Buy the Way” which is like a CVS with no pharmacy.  Really it’s more like a gas station without the gas.  I got a simple white umbrella for 3,500₩ (do you remember how much that equals?).

Anyway, a lot of the schools near her apartment were cancelled, and her husband told her not to leave the house all day.  Probably better to be safe than sorry though, since she’s going to be giving birth in 3 weeks. 

Maybe eventually I’ll get one of those face mask things, but really more because of the yellow dust storms, not so much the miniscule radiation that Korea might get.  Here’s an article about about the school closings today because of the fear of radiation rain.

(borrowed pic from msnbc- Korean environmental activists today)

Dok D’oh!

Recently, things seemed to have turned a tiny bit sour between Korea and Japan.  They were doing so well too, after the earthquake and tsunami.  I heard on the news a week or so ago that South Korea donated more to the disaster relief than any other country (over $19 million, I think).  This is a pretty big deal, considering the bitter history in the past century between these two countries, but South Korea is putting all that behind them and acting like a good neighbor. (photo borrowed from dokdo-takeshima on flickr)

So the reason why things aren’t exactly 100% peachy between the two is because of a little thing called Dokdo.  Well actually it’s two things.  The Dokdo territory consists of two small islands- Dongdo and Seodo (with some other tiny nothings around) that have been part of the territory/history of Korea since around 500 A.D.  Recently, Japan approved middle school textbooks for the 2012 school year, which show Dokdo belonging to Japan and not to Korea.  Even after WWII, Koreans were using Dokdo for various reasons, building a lighthouse there in 1954, so it’s pretty clear that Dokdo belongs to Korea and has belonged to them even despite the hardships of wartime.  On the Dokdo website, it says that there are officially three residents on the island, but several hundred people use it as their permanent address, maybe as a way to claim Korea’s authority over the land?

photo borrowed from gossing2

Dokdo isn’t just about drawing a line down the middle of the ocean and dividing what’s mine and yours, the sea around Dokdo has some great maritime resources, which makes it all the more valuable.  Besides the manned lighthouse there is also a fisherman’s lodge, docks, power plants, helicopter pad, and more stuff. 

Anyway, right after Japan made that announcement about the textbooks, Korea’s donations to the Japan earthquake/tsunami relief immediately started to go down.  They’re a little upset, but who can blame them?  Anyway, it’s important to remember it is the Japanese government, not most of it’s people, who are trying to claim the islands as their own.  I would like to go check it out sometime, although it’s really not that big.  We’ll see how this conflict is resolved in the next upcoming weeks or so.

borrowed from 임프레자

The Duck’s Belly

So about a week or so ago I went with my aunt and her husband for a bit of a ride out in the country.  We were out there to see my aunt’s sister-in-law’s new house.  Here in Korea, when you visit someone’s new house for the first time, you bring a gift, which is similar to what most of us do in America.  In the U.S. we usually bring a plant, food, or sometimes liquor, right?  Anyway here you take something like toilet paper, paper towels, or laundry detergent.  Things that people will need and use once they move in.  Also, I read somewhere that Koreans give the laundry detergent and soaps to ‘clean out’ all of the previous bad chi, mojo, whatever you wanna call it, from the previous tenants/owners.  So we traveled with toilet paper in tow.

After seeing their new place we went to a local restaurant whose name pretty much translates to the duck’s belly.  Here is a picture of the statue outside the restaurant, although to me it almost looks like a goose.

Inside this quiet and traditional looking restaurant was a hopping place, with tons of people at waiting patiently for their chance to have some of this juicy duck.  Apparently the place is somewhat famous because my aunt said she saw a story about the restaurant on tv somewhat recently.  Anyway, we were lucky that we didn’t have to wait long at all, especially since I was starving.  After being seated, the servers bring the uncooked ducked and put it on this hot marble slab to cook.  We had two kinds, since we had two cooking stations at our table- one regular, one spicy duck.  The grease all goes to the edges and goes down this tube into a bucket.

Here’s some video of them cooking it:

After we had some of the duck they started cooking some fried rice on the same marble slab, but this was a little different from fried rice that I’ve had before.  Here they flattened it to the slab and burned it a little, then rolled it like a crepe and cut it into pieces. 

Video of the burnt fried rice

All in all it was quite tasty and we had a little bit of makgeolli (막걸리, korean rice wine) to go with it. 

WEll, this was another quick and lazy Sunday morning post for you all.  My brain isn’t quite awake yet so forgive me for grammar errors and whatever else.