Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gyeongju notes and Seoul's LDS temple trip!

It was a 20 hour trip in total. I began the journey with some faithful members of my Church nearby at around 9:30 pm. Already exhausted following the previous weekend's trip to Gyeongju, and then hanging out with my 2 home-bound American friends all week, plus, of course, my job, I was less than excited to go. But, who could say no to a temple trip to Seoul? Well--our aged driver also seemed to be rather sleep deprived. So our adventure took on a whole new dynamic as we lurched, braked eratically, and wove over traffic lanes...I watched in horror as cars dodged us. My prayers were more direct and sincere than usual all the way to Seoul. We did arrive in one piece at about 3:00 am, 90 minutes later than the trip usually takes. The "dorms" where we slept until it was our turn to enter the temple, consisted of floors to stretch out on and snooze or, if you're a kid, play hide and seek. No one but me was surprised by this. Before I joined the others in attempting to rest, I walked alone around the darkened temple. That was the quiet payoff for me--a small edifice, the temple was never-the-less, regally dignified and peaceful. I slept through both actual temple sessions. During our long journey home, which stretched from 4 into 6 hours, since the same sleepy old guy was driving, 2 very patient and wise men sat close behind him and started chatting w/the guy every time the bus started wandering across lanes (which it did frequently). I imagine I will try the trip again, since I'm Relief Society President in my tiny branch, but not for a couple of months and NOT without a different driver!! Now about's everything everyone says it is, and more...happily, our director rented bicycles for us the first day. I've not been on one a bike in over 20 years, but had a blast! The weather was picture perfect and we all acted like overgrown kids, even when a flat tire required extra time to wrap up the day!
I could include a bunch of classic shots, since we stopped at so many amazing places and I DID get some memorable photos, including a 1000 year old forest,
the AMAZING Bulguksa Temple, Anapji Pond and the National Museum,
but I'm sure the internet is also for that. Instead, meet equally amazing people, starting with my co-workers. Using their American names, as we use at the JC Academy, here's Christine in the middle of flowers in the Wolseoung Fortress, and then Haley and Olivia perched like tree nymphs in the 1000 year old Gyerim Forest.
Jack takes more pictures than anyone, but had me take a photo of him by this stone statue--his eyes are closed like the statue's:
Finally, here's one of the whole gang on the grass in front of the tombs of kings and queens of Park Hyeokgeose.
I used up all the memory in my phone the morning of the 2nd day because I was so fascinated by every inch of the places we visited. Rather than snap a lot of photos which are already famous, I was mesmerized by angles, corners and nooks like this one, where nature, planning and architecture come together so beautifully:
Or this spot where Autumn added magic to an already enchanted old wall:
Here's another shot of Haley and Olivia in the middle of one of many old streets.
I purchased a small handmade sprouting pot from this lady artist at the base of the Gameunsa Temple ruins site:
Her work's amazing and I wish she lived closer to me! Having taken 2 pottery classes at BYU, I'd love to try to learn from her and buy more...
Another highlite of the trip, was Yong Bu-Choe. An elderly gentleman with impecable English speaking skills (despite never having traveled to America!!), asked if I'd like to hear a story about the ancient house of Choe we were visiting--everyone gathered around to hear the rules of what it took to make a great household stay great, including words of wisdom like not allowing anyone within 100 kilometers of your home to go hungry and making sure a new daughter-in-law wears only cotton for the first 3 years of marriage. I got his card and we all got a photo with this amazing man. Soft spoken and articulate, we were in awe of him. Finally, I noticed a father kissing his son near the underwater tomb of the Great King Munmu, and got him to repeat the act a half dozen times and will close with what my camera captured--which is at the heart of all that's best, not only in South Korea, but every warm, happy, spot on this Earth.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fun Korea Stuff

Just got back from on a trip with my Hagwon to Gyeongju, which I'll write about next week. For now, since I'm wiped out, I decided to address what my American friends, (both of whom are leaving me to go back to the states this week!!) and I have discussed as specifically "Korean." That's a question. Plagued by repeated wars, Korea struggles for a clear identity. But, as I pass my 2 month anniversary in Sacheon, here's a few things which stand out to me. First, of all, EVERYONE, young or old, LOVES KIMCHI. That includes me, though not with the same level of passion. What's not to love? It's spicy and low in calories and a perfect complement for rice!
Also, coffee is a lot more popular than tea.
Coffee shops, modern or old fashioned, like the one above, are EVERYWHERE. Then there's the whole SOCK fetish. In every department store, open market and many street corners, you see little displays and stands like this:
I love that obsession and intend to bring home a lot of Korean socks. In fact, I doubt I'll bring back very many American articles of clothing if they can be replaced by something Korean (or made in China--I bought 3 scarves from a market that were simply resold from China). Tiny little shops like this stationary store aren't just in Korea, I imagine, but I adore this one in Busan. I'll use the stationary I bought there for the few letters I get around to sending out. It's fabulously crammed full, with stacks of this and that in every conceivable space.
Korean chopsticks and the accompanying long-handled spoon are distinct to this country. Made of metal and shiny, they are lovely. I am learning to eat out of the communal dishes set out at the table, both in restaurants and in the academy where I eat dinner every night (because our director cooks!). Also, there are foods to combine and others NOT to mix, and it's important to keep the soup bowl on the correct side of one's rice dish. I'm learning by watching.
Some other odds and ends--toilet paper is used in place of paper towells at meals and used TP is generally stashed in a waste basket beside the toilet, not flushed. Garbage is sorted into recyclables and regular trash. Both are just left out in the appropriate plastic bags on a corner near your house to be picked up. Floors are heated in the winter instead of furnaces (I'll try that out soon), and hot water doesn't come from a hot water heater, it's heated as needed. Oh yes, and another random item of note--if dog meat is eaten around here, I'd be extremely surprised. Small dogs are plentiful and more obedient than most American dogs.
Depending on what happens and how long I stay, I'm seriously considering asking if I can keep a small dog in my apartment next year. I miss my Gideon so...but cats seem to exist as wild things to catch rodents. It's sad--I've never gotten close enough to pet one.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


My only exposure to big cities in Korea has been in the airports of Seoul and Busan. So, yesterday, my friend Erin, who's returning to Baltimore, MD after living here 2 years, took me to Busan.
We had a blast! We tried new foods and shopped in the open markets
(I found some smokin' deals later that evening), visited the Lotte Building, where we saw the water and lights show, roof top views of the city and port,
beaches, and stopped at the children's park. While the kids ran around and tried to pet and feed the rabbits and pigs, their parents, and I, were transfixed by the children!
Most of the children through out the day were laughing and having a grand time, so the ones who pouted and the few who through fits were fun to watch, actually. There was one little girl on the subway who enchanted everyone. She had on one of those body "harnesses," and for good reason. All over the place, she bowed, waved, chattered and smiled during the whole ride, spreading cheer like a modern, Korean Shirley Temple! One Mom handed her a banana and she had a captive audience. Between her perpetual motion and the lurching of the train, I had a hard time getting a decent shot, but her she is, happy with her new banana and bowing to my camera.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lantern Festival and Mountain Hikes

Last night I went with my coworkers to the annual Lantern Festival, but forgot to bring my camera!! So, here's a link to one of the online travel sites until I get some copies of photos from other teachers. We didn't get back from Jinju until 1:30ish and I crashed around 3 am, so a little out of it today. Ah--this one's actually a lot better! Seriously, this is a festival not to be missed!! Also, my American friends and I went hiking into some nearby mountains twice this week during the Chuseok break. On Monday, October 1st, we went to a nearby rock on top of a relatively small mountain. Here's a fun shot of my friend Erin on top of it!
Now, we all climbed out onto it and basked in the view of the river and farmlands, but Erin made a grrreat model for that moment in time! On Wednesday, October 3rd, we drove out a bit further, parked at the base of this hiking spot (the name of which I don't recall, so I'll just upload a photo of the sign).
We encountered a variety of points of interest, including slugs the size of Abe Lincoln's fingers, a snake or 2 curled up in the path, an ice-cream vendor who hauls his product all the way to the top (YES, we had ice-cream from him!) and PAINTERS at work where we needed to go onto a footbridge between two mountain peaks! We couldn't believe the timing--painting during one of the busiest holidays around here, on dangerous pathways and bridges--at best, tricky to navigate. But here's a view from atop that bridge.
The views were spectacular!! Thanks to the knowledge and hospitality of Kenny and Sherry Anderson for making such a hike possible!! I'll miss them when they head back to Texas soon, and Erin's headed back to Baltimore, Maryland...