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Ever Evolving Primate: Travel, photography, food, cooking, and just about anything else.

Ever Evolving Primate: Travel, photography, food, cooking, and just about anything else.: May 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Various Books, Movies, and Video Games

This blog post has nothing to do with Korea, it has to do with some of the stuff I like to do to entertain myself on the subway, before bed, between school and taekwondo, etc. If you find it boring, you suck.

Thor (PS3): This game plays just like an "all fighting all the time" Yakuza game would. It's fun, but it doesn't hold your interest super well and the graphics aren't up to the quality of most other games. I love the classic SEGA feel too it, and the story isn't totally lame. I give it a 7/10. It's passable.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3): This game plays just like every other call of duty game. It's pretty great. The story mode is really nice, but I don't think I'll get too far into the online mode, I've got Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops for online. This game may be old news, but I'll give it a 9.5/10 for being the rockinest game I've purchased since moving to Korea.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Book series): Excellent writing, innovative way to tell a story based on Greek mythology, and easy to read. I think everyone should read the series. I think kids should especially read the series, it's a great way to get interested in some classics like Homer's Odyssey. Awesome. I give it a 10/10.

5 Ronin (Marvel Comic Book Series): I've only read the first two books, but it's interesting. I like the idea of the 5 heroes as Samurai without their full blown totally unreal superpowers. The art style kinda emulates sumi brush painting, and it's all in an interesting setting. The storyline might be super cliche, but I dig it.

Classic Controller (Wii): This makes the fun old games on virtual console so much cooler. It feels about like an old SNES controller did. For $15 or so every Wii household should have one or two. 10/10

Green Lantern Volume 5 (DC Comics Series): Once again, old news, but awesome character. I think the Green Lantern is my favorite of the DC heroes for sure. 9.5/10

Steak flavored Cheetos (Korean Cheetos): Don't really taste like steak or cheetos. If you're really hungry they'll do 6/10.

Happy Cow (Restaurant): We don't really know the name of the restaurant, we just call it the happy cow because of the big happy cartoon cow on the window (about to get his ass slapped on a grill and burned). We eat here lots, usually fo less than $15 US and fill up on fresh veggies and beautiful heaps of kalbi. Yummo (we went there tonight!). 10/10

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Colorful Weekend in Colorful Daegu

This weekend we decided to stay in town and simply enjoy our surroundings a bit, and try to get a bit more familiar with more of the food options available to those of us lucky enough to live in Daegu. Friday after work found us heading downtown. I met Babehoney at a Davinci Coffee shop in the Jungangno underground shopping plaza and we headed up to the street level to find something interesting to eat. We did a complete circle starting at Gorilla Burger looking for something that would pique our culinary curiousity (we decided on Turkish Kebabs and forgot about them during our circle) but ended up back at the Gorilla Burger. I had the Hawaiian Burger and it tastes JUST LIKE a teriyaki burger I would have had when I lived in Kona. I like their fries too, because they serve them with ranch dressing. Not something you see too often here. The walls are decorated with velvet painting renditions of Abraham Lincoln, President Obama, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and a few others. All in all I'd give Gorilla Burger a 9/10 because it's a really good American style burger at a really decent price with cool ambiance.

After eating we stumbled upon the Dongseongno Festival where we watched some hip hop groups perform and a couple of singers. It was a cool thing to happen upon, and it made for a complete Friday evening. I typically find these kinds of festivals irritating, but this one was really well produced and the weather was perfect for watching something like this. A quick stop at the Kyobo bookstore to look for travel guides (for our upcoming vacation in August) and we were on our way home.

Saturday we cleaned the apartment up really well and then once again made our way downtown. We remembered that we had forgotten to get kebabs so we made our way over and had a couple of them at the Turkish place. I'm kinda surprised at how many Turks live in Korea, but it's a good thing they do because I imagine that otherwise it'd be damn near impossible to find Mediterranean food. The kebabs were pretty good, but I think I prefer the Greek gyros a bit better. I had lamb and Babehoney had chicken. Once again a very inexpensive meal, but cool nonetheless. I'll give the Kebab place a 7/10 good meal, good price, but not super amazing.

After lunch we made our way to the CGV and got tickets to see Source Code. I thought the movie was really good. Usually I don't like those "you figure it out" kind of movies, but this one was pretty good. I especially liked the ending because it jived with what little I know of quantum physics and made for a good warm fuzzy feeling. We made our way home and picked up a box of fried chicken and cheesesticks from the BBQ Chicken. I think the delivery driver/cashier/owner guy was impressed with my upgraded (barely) Korean from the last time I was there. Definitely the best fried chicken evar. The rest of the evening we spent watching movies in bed.

Today we woke up at about 9:30, cleaned the hamster cages, had a light lunch of a tuna sammich (by the way, if you're out of mayo and you have cream cheese in the works...) and made our way to the Daegu National Museum to see the National Geographic photo exhibit they have right now. Actually, today was the last day. The photos were amazing, and the exhibit itself was really attractive. It was very crowded and here in Asia there's less personal space, so it was a bit uncomfortable, but definitely worth all of the queuing we did to see the photos. We took a quick lap through the permanent collection, mostly old bronze and iron tools and weapons, some armor, Buddha statues, and a miniature Confucian academy, and headed back downtown. When we got downtown we decided to try a place we spotted on our aforementioned lap of downtown and walked over to Italy Italy. I was excited to see things like farfalle, fettuccine, alfredo, bolognese, and other non-spaghetti Italian style pastas on the menu. I was even more excited when the first forkful of my fettuccine/farfalle alfredo was real alfredo sauce and not "cream sauce spaghetti" like you can find anywhere else. It was awesome, and not too expensive at all. Worth every single of the 12,000 won we each spent on dinner.

This weekend was so productive, and we're really happy to know that we can now easily access the following comfort food categories: Mexican, Mediterranean, Italian, and good old American burgers. The past two weekends of exploring Daegu have been fairly calm compared to our trips to Seoul, but certainly they have made the city seem a bit less backwater (how can a city of 2.4 million people feel like a backwater? it to a city of 20 million!) and full of conveniences we didn't know were even here (oh yeah, we found a TGIFridays downtown the Lotte Department store.)

I'll see if I can add some videos to this post at a later time...uploading to US based websites like blogger takes forever on our internet connection and it's time for bed.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Something I've learned as a teacher...

If there's one universal truth about teaching middle school aged kids around the world, I think this might be it. My best class is also my last class on Friday. 90% of the time, they're awesome and behaved super well, but sometimes it's Friday afternoon and they'll participate but they're tired and ready to go home. And they want to talk to their friends. So I've learned you can either get upset about it, or not, and if you don't the class moves along pretty well, even if it's a bit noisy. The kids are still good, they're just as ready for the weekend as I am :).


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sport Shopping in Seoul

I can't believe how far behind I've gotten on my blogging. Oh well. Babehoney and I took a weekend trip up to Seoul a couple of weeks ago for Buddha's Birthday, and it was a great time. After arriving and checking in to the guesthouse we were staying at, we headed over to Gwanghwamun square because there were several festivals going on in the city that we wanted to check out and that was a central point to all of them. We walked through the Hi Seoul festival, and then did some sport shopping at the H&M and a few other stores where we actually found some clothes big enough to fit us!

After an afternoon of shopping we headed over to the Buddha's Birthday Lantern Parade, a heck of an event that featured huge lanterns and thousands of smaller ones marching down the streets to the sounds of Buddhist chants, samulnori groups, and other traditional musical groups.

We were pretty wiped after the parade so we headed back to our guesthouse and crashed a bit early. The next morning we woke up and had to change rooms in the guesthouse, so we needed to stay in the area until our new room was ready. We found a cafe that served gourmet burgers and hot dogs and had a great lunch. I ordered 2 hot dogs, not realizing that the dogs would be foot long ones and that the toppings were taken to an extreme level. We ate everything, re-checked into the hotel, and then went about our adventures for the day.

On the way back we stopped for a spot of tea at the Hello Kitty Cafe. It was amazingly...cute. And the green tea latte and brownies we ordered were very good. I had read many bad reviews of the Hello Kitty Cafe, but I have to say that in my experience I'd recommend it. 

We tried to hop a bus to Insa-dong, but somehow missed the stop and ended up on the northwestern outskirts of the city. After spending a bit of time finding our way back to Insa-dong, we shopped around for local wares and looking at the dudes playing flutes and stuff. We enjoyed an ice cream waffle (wow, waffle with ice cream, bananas, strawberries, caramel, chocolate, etc...huge) and a lemonade, and then moved along to the Buddha's birthday lantern festival, where we made lanterns for ourselves.

After the festival we decided to try and find some ethnic cuisine that wasn't, well, we looked through a city guide and found a place called Dos Tacos in Seoul Square. It was the only business open in the Square when we arrived, and the food was pretty convincing. We stuffed ourselves on Mexican cuisine, and hopped a train to the other side of the river where we wanted to check out a fountain show that plays off of a bridge. 

We saw the lights of the show as we approached, but we arrived after the last show ended. Nothing to be sad about though, as the Han river is a mighty river that is cool enough to look at on its own. We sat there for an hour or so watching Korean couples and families play in the darkness. This country is very different as you don't feel the need to look over your shoulder constantly at night when you're in a dark place. In fact, it seemed strange to see people playing basketball and children riding bicycles so late at night, but it's Korea, and everything is different here!

The next morning we headed for the Seoul Zoo. I found the zoo to be fairly nice, with better treatment of the animals than I would have imagined. It was a little startling however how little, umm, fencing there was for some of the big cats. I thought the Tigers might not have a problem getting to us if they really wanted to...but I'm no expert. We spent the day at the zoo, and although it threatened to rain on us all day, it only managed a few sprinkles at the very end of our time at the zoo.

After the zoo we headed over to the Coex mall to grab dinner (we went to TGIFridays, if you think we're crazy for getting western food in Korea when we have the opportunity, you've never lived somewhere where it's not always easy to find your old favorites...) and see the aquarium. Unfortunately after our meal the aquarium was only open for another couple of hours, so we didn't go. It was a bit expensive for only 2 hours. We did do a bit of shopping though. I bought a man-bag and a hat, and Babehoney got some jeggings. I also splurged on new headphones. They had a Nintendo store, but it was very expensive and they didn't have a 3DS, so it was of little interest.

The next morning it was raining cats and dogs. We grabbed breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. I had a banana donut, chocolate donut, and tomato/carrot glazed donut. I'm not so hot on the tomato/carrot glazed kind ;). After breakfast we walked over to Cheongyeonggung Palace where we spent most of the day. Seeing a palace like this devoid of tourists is awesome, and the rain made the experience unique. It was easy to imagine wearing those ornate, shiny robes and sitting in a palace like this making policy decisions and deciding who should be executed by slicing.

On the way back to the train station we made 2 stops. One was for Japanese curry, and it was really good, but not super notable. The other one was at the Hello CAT Cafe. Not the Hello Kitty Cafe. Hello Kitty Cafe was pink with Hello Kitty faces everywhere. Hello Cat cafe was much more plain, with CATS everywhere. For 8,000 won you get a drink and admission to pet the cats. There were probably about 15 of them and some of them were more snuggly than others, but it was really nice to borrow a kitty for a while and get some furry animal petting time in. They even had a sphinx, which was pretty cool. Hairless cats feel a bit like plucked chickens in case you're wondering.

At the end of the day we hopped on board the KTX and sped back to Daegu for a short workweek. In fact, last Friday was teacher's day. All of our classes were shortened so that teaching hours ended at 12:30, and I received a flower and two really cute letters from two of my students. Some people were loaded down with ricecakes and stuff, but I'm plenty happy with two handwritten letters instead...ricecakes aren't really my thing :). 

After such a big weekend we didn't have a whole lot of energy to do much other than go to work and taekwondo, but we made it to 3 classes last week and now the master has offered for us to take a promotion test on May 28th. Last weekend we stayed in town and spent some time in public parks reading books, doing a bit more sport shopping and searching for new restaurants. We found one called "The Holy Grill" that actually has respectable Mexican food. All of the servers speak perfect English and it's a good escape from the normal Daegu places we go. It's worth every single of the 16,000W for the enchilada or chimichanga too! Now, off to plan the next big adventure.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Taekwondo World Championships

As I mentioned previously, Carolyn and I have been taking taekwondo classes for a couple of weeks. Last week the master invited us to go with him to an "international taekwondo tournament." We thought it would be an awesome Korea experience so we said OF COURSE! So yesterday, we went down to the gym, piled into the gym's van, and headed to Gyeongju, about an hour and a half east-southeast of Daegu.

Uh...yeah. We're not in Kansas anymore toto!

Great Britain putting the beatdown on Portugal

When we arrived I noticed something was amiss...there were tons of signs, an excellent display of kites marking the entrance, and people from all over the world. It was the freaking world championship! We got to watch a couple of matches that were really out of this world, for example the women's final between Korea and China. A politically charged ancient rivalry that resulted in two women beating each other up pretty well. The Korean won, by the way.

It was really neat to feel like we reconnected with the world a little bit, there were taekwondo competitors from every country I can think of, and it was neat to see some of the national pride on display.

Burial mound in background

The perfect gate.

Oh those beautiful Korean Mountains!

After the championship we went over to see some historical burial mounds that Gyeongju is famous for, and that was equally enjoyable. It was a beautiful spring day with families in a park flying kites, riding bikes, and walking among ancient burial sites that dated back to 935 BCE. Simply amazing.

It was very interesting being with our master for the day because although he speaks very very little English and we speak even less Korean, we managed to communicate somewhat. I think he wished we could communicate easier so he could tell us what was happening, but I made sure to tell him that even though we couldn't talk much it was such a cool opportunity for us to go to a world championship with our teacher that we would remember it forever...and we will.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another dusty day in Daegu

So we're apparently in the thick bit of the "yellow dust" season in Korea. Every year windstorms or something, maybe butterflies, who knows, blows up a buttload of dust from the Gobi desert. This dust drifts through air, over such industrially active and polluted cities as Beijing, and then falls on Korea and Japan. I had a cold last week and now I'm pretty sure I have yellow mud (wet dust) in my lungs, throat, and nose. Soon the dust levels will drop again and I will feel like a human. I hope.

Work has been nice and easy, but I haven't managed to make it back to Taekwondo since I got sick. I'm going tonight with babehoney, even if I just sit on the couch and watch. Life in general is pretty good. It's definitely getting warmer with daily temperatures approaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

That's the update for now, not a whole lot to write about from this side of the Sea of Japan.