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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.: July 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Smiling Dalseo!

The district (bigger than a neighborhood, smaller than a city) that we live in here in Daegu is Dalseo-gu. Carolyn and I decided that we needed to get our cameras out and go practice photography a bit before our big trip to Bali in 2 weeks. Because we a) are low on funds and b) have never really explored beyond the subway lines, we headed out to walk around Dalseo a bit. After a hot, rainy afternoon of trekking around Dalseo-gu, we cleaned up and went downtown to see Harry Potter. We had a nice Japanese ramen meal (real ramen is so much better than instant) and walked around downtown practicing our photography some more. Here's a few of my photos from the day:

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lazy Day

So today was my first day to warm my desk. I wrote up actual lesson plans for my classes next week instead of just the workbook pages the teacher in charge wanted so that I'd know what kind of materials I'd need. Then I read about American economics and politics before going home. Tomorrow I'm going to make the materials I need, and then hopefully have time to read about American Economics and Politics before I go home. My home country is far more interesting now that I'm not in it :).

After work I played about that five hours of Call of Duty. I leveled up twice. This couldn't get any less interesting. I also played a bit of Shank, a downloadable title that runs a bit like all of the action scenes from Kill Bill set as a strange Mexican-Japanese animation lovechild. It's a cool game. I just wasn't super motivated to do anything, and Babehoney got hung up at school with coworkers for a bit and didn't get home until right before it was time to go to taekwondo. Now here's where I feel like a total tool. Babehoney got royally sick last night after TKD and didn't feel up to it tonight. I should have gone. I didn't go earlier this week because I didn't feel so hot, and even though I was hungry, feeling lazy, and not really in a great mood today, I should have gone to TKD. Shoulda woulda coulda. Honestly the thought of being around kids at the moment was a bit much to deal with, the half hour walk there and back in the humid, not too hot but not at all comfortable air with no one to talk to, and the fact that I feel a little barfy myself made it easy to convince myself to just stay home.

I did make a quick run out to the Lotte Super to get a carrot and a curry packet, and tonight I'm making hot golden Korean-style curry for dinner. It's one of my favorite foods in Korea, and everything is boiling away right now. Yummo. Anyway, now that I'm settled in for the evening it's time to watch some crap TV and movies.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Boryeong Mudfest - Just go with it.

I knew that any chance of keeping my dignity was gone as soon as a twenty something giggling Korean dude turned around from a tub of mud and smeared me with Boryeong's magical healing mud. Then he giggled some more. He turned back to the vat of mud, grabbed another handful, and smeared my face for good measure. I laughed too. The Boryeong Mudfest had begun in earnest.

I guess to explain what the mudfest is about I must talk about the mud. You know those mud-masks that are good for your skin? Boryeong produces one. It's least in Korea, and is good for your body condition. In short, Boryeong produces some cosmetic mud and hosts a festival every year to promote their product. Strangely this festival over the past 14 years has turned into more of a gathering of foreigners than a Korean event, but it happens in Korea, and plenty of Koreans do participate in the mud slinging (friendly, of course). Here's the story of our trip to the mudfest.

Babehoney knew that she wanted to go to this festival since before we even sent our applications in to our recruiter to come work in Korea. It seems that every foreigner who spends time in Korea must attend the mudfest during their first year as a rite of passage. Babehoney looked up some different ways to get to Boryeong for the festival and decided that a good bet for our money was to go with Adventure Korea. We used Adventure Korea for our rafting trip on the Hantan River, so we're familiar with them and like the quality of their product and service. I think we paid something like 85,000wons each for the trip, which included basically transportation, morning activities on Saturday, and our accomodations. Not bad.

Saturday morning we woke up early at about 6:00am to get ready and head to Banwoldang Station (about a 30 minute subway ride) downtown to catch our bus to Boryeong. The trip was easy, and we started our 3.5 hour bus ride with comfort. We made a stop at a service station (Korean roadside rest stops are amazing, by the way) about halfway through the trip.  We didn't go straight to Boryeong city, but first to the Boryeong mudflats where the cosmetic mud is harvested. 20,000 Republic of Korea Marines also do training at the mudflats annually. There were several activities here.

First we changed into "military" garb, or as I'd call it, a tiny long sleeved t-shirt and a pair of BDU pants with a broken zipper. After changing we slipped on socks (to protect against any bits of shell, etc) and stomped into the mud. We played soccer in the mud (which was hilarious. The Americans are definitely not as into it as the Brits/Irish/Saffas/etc.) which was where I got my first taste of it when I tripped over another player. Literally. My first taste of the mud. It wasn't too bad. We also did "marine training" which was about 5 pushups, some leglifts, a mud fight, and then watched some people mud wrestle for a bit before we decided to shower off. They had open air showers with coooooooooooold cold water. It was actually quite invigorating. We loaded back up on the bus and rode into Boryeong City.

Boryeong City is small, and reminds me a bit of Panama City Beach, Florida, but with no tall hotels. Our hotel was nice and clean and had a padded floor, but no beds. That's pretty common here. We got situated, changed into mud-clothes, and headed out to the beach. Honestly, for a small town in Korea the beachfront was really a happening place. The beach itself is beautiful with views of the East China Sea and small offshore islands. It's not at all what I would expect a beach to look like in Korea, but then again, what in Korea turns out as you might expect it to anyway?

We ran into a couple of friends as we worked our way North on the beach towards the festival, and had no trouble finding the center of the action. The mud park was in full swing with giant inflatables (covered with mud) crawling with tons of people (also covered with mud). The admission fee was 5,000W and despite our best efforts we never even made it through the gate. After getting a mud rub-down we were distracted by some noise on the main stage, so we had a look.

There was a dance contest, limbo contest, and several foreign men who thought that gyrating in their tiny bathing suits was hilarious. Alcohol just has its way with some people, I guess. The prize for the official events was a trip to Jeju-do, which is a much nicer prize than a lot of the participants might have realized.

While we were watching the activities on stage Carolyn complimented this man on his fashionable sweat sleeve that looked like a tattoo. He told us he was the owner of the stage we were watching and asked us a few questions about how we heard about the festival and how we got to the festival, where we were staying, etc. We took photos together (that's like shaking hands) before he suggested we join the crowd and get sprayed down by his giant fan-truck, Optimus Prime. He also said that Transformers 3 was a wonderful movie, for good measure.

Optimus Prime cracked me up. Not because it was a fan spraying mist and water on people, but because the people, 80% or so who didn't speak Korean, instinctively knew to go stand in front of it, raise their arms in the air, and start screaming. Say what you will about mudfest being a load of debauchery, but any time you get a group of people together and say you're going to spray them with water (or mud), they're likely to turn into a group of kids. We would have joined the melee, but...well...we had to pee. So we headed back to the hotel room...and took a nap.

We woke up a little after 6:00pm, took a quick, cold, shower and headed back towards the festivities. We even wore nicer-ish clothes and decided not to get muddy again. Some friends of ours who live in Busan also came up for the festival, and after a few phone calls we were all in place. We met some real nice guys from the U.S. Air Force and had a relaxed time while the sun set over the East China Sea. We had a bite to eat, gave our friends a chance to clean up, and headed back out to watch some famous K-pop Girl-band do their thing before a big fireworks show.

The fireworks show was honestly unbelievable. I have no idea how they packed so much ordinance onto one little tugboat. Some of the explosions lit up the sky for what seemed like minutes, and made shapes that hung in the air like something out of a Harry Potter movie. I know that fireworks and whatnot were invented in this part of the world, but damn, you would have thought we would have caught up by now. They put on what was probably the best fireworks show I've ever seen.

After the fireworks we looked around for a place to get some booze and do some dancing. A few clubs had signs on the door that said "Koreans Only," which honestly, is fine. Sometimes they can seem a bit xenophobic, but I think that if the business owners would want to pass on the money they could have made on the foreign crowd to keep their club less rowdy it's their choice. The foreign crowd was pretty boozed up by this point and quite rambunctious. We found a street party right outside of our hotel and joined in, and had beers, conversation, and bad dancing until about three o'clock in the morning.

Carolyn and I both felt a bit rough this morning, so we slept in, loaded our bags on the bus, and got a slow start on the day. We started out with a huge bottle of water and a walk up the beach. We found a cafe called Orange, and so had every other foreigner in town for the festival. A little over an hour's wait after we ordered, I had a waffle with mixed fruits, and Babehoney had toast and eggs. We met up with our friends one more time to say hi, but they had to head back to Busan a little earlier than our departure. The majority of the day today was just some ultra-relaxed beach combing and general recovery from last night. We found a place to order a pizza, sat down, relaxed, and got back on the bus to Daegu at about 4pm.

The bus pulled into Banwoldang Station at about 8pm, we headed home with a quick stop at BBQ Chicken (the Daegok-dong BBQ Chicken has the best fried chicken in the frickin' world!), got home, showered up, and Carolyn promptly passed out. She's snoring next to me right now while I finish this post up. The Boryeong Mudfest made for one hell of a weekend, and I'd recommend that everyone who comes to teach English in Korea attend it once.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Last Day of School

I haven't been this excited about the last day of school since I was a student in high school, at least. Now, as a teacher, it's even more exciting than it was before. It's not just days off that I'm looking forward to, but one hell of a vacation. Have I mentioned that I'm already basically on vacation all the time because I live abroad and get to experience something new at every corner? Oh, well I guess I have then. The last day of school today was a real treat, and let me tell you why.

I showed up as usual right at 8:30am. The homeroom teachers were all in a really good mood, and the air conditioner was already on in the office. These are usually signs that it's going to be a really good day! My coteacher came in and I asked if the schedule would be any different today, after all, it IS the last day of school. She replied "Oh yes. You do nothing today! I'm envious!" and I smiled. Then she explained that because of the municipal office of education's policies about paying native teachers for documents, I could earn some extra cash by having extensive lesson plans and powerpoint presentations ready for summer camp on Monday. Then she said that the native teachers should leave at noon because they wanted to lock the school up. And then, as if it couldn't get any better, she said that the native teachers were not to come to work tomorrow.

I managed to finish up one lesson plan, worksheet, and powerpoint combination before I left school, and I have all day on my much-faster-than-work laptop to get the other two done. Monday we have summer English camp from 1-4 at school, and we're meeting our coteacher downtown to buy some prizes at the English bookstore for the kids. We do camp 3 days and then we're keeping our desks warm on Thursday and Friday. Oh yeah, when we come in to warm the desks, we only have to stay until noon. Gotta love the fact that the school has concerns over using too much power and would rather just lock the building down!

So the semester has come to a close, my first semester as a "real" teacher (in all senses except for having to do all the admin work a real teacher does) has been pretty successful, and I'm excited about the summer. What's not to love?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One more day...

...and this semester's a wrap.

I remember final exams being the last week of school at home. Here the exams were the second to last week, which means that this last week of the semester has been fairly worthless. The kids aren't interested at all (and the way they study for exams here I'd attribute it 100% to just being worn out and tired) in learning any more material, and they're ready for a break. Interestingly, I'm not really interested in teaching anything new this week, and I'm ready for a break too. Next week we're having our summer English camp at the middle school, though so my break will have to wait.

Summer English camp is a way to help students continue their English education after the regular semester ends. The idea is for the classes to be very fun and enjoyable and 100% in English. On the first day, my classes will get to play Fallout. The second day will be "Let's Make a Deal", and the third day is going to be my special production of "Superstar Daejin" where the kids will sing and judge each other's abilities American Idol style. I think it should be a fun three days and that the students will enjoy it quite a bit.

After middle school summer camp I'm spending a week at Babehoney's school doing camp there, and then I'm "on vacation" even though I have to come sit in the office every day for a week. After that, it's Bali time!

Tonight we're heading downtown to hopefully get a new powercord for Carolyn's computer. Hopefully we'll have time to stop at the Kyobo bookstore while we're there, I'd like to pick up a paperback novel to take to the beach with us this weekend. I think we're going to have dinner at Italy Italy because we're both craving a good pasta with a ton of cheese on top :).

It's very quiet in the office right now, and it definitely feels like the semester is winding down for the summer. I apologize for the stream of conscience style of writing, but my brain seems to have checked out for the summer :).

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Holy Grill at Wolbae

Oh thank heavens. The Holy Grill opened a new location near the Wolbae Home Plus recently. Babehoney has been once before, but today was my first visit to the satellite of the best place to eat in Daegu. They have a limited menu, just sammiches and burritos, but it's all just as good as the downtown location. The best part, it's not all the way downtown! I had "the New Yorker," which is basically pastrami, pickles, and cheese on 3 pieces of grilled white bread. It was great. And cheap! 4,900W! The fries were amazing too. Babehoney had the steak burrito, which was also 4,900W, and it was even amazing-er. As many of my Korean friends that speak English would say, "Maybe we will eat there many times." Woo Woo!

In unrelated news, we went shopping at HomePlus. I wore my new Salomon shoes (gotta break them in before the trip to Bali) and contacts. Gotta get used to that again!

Now, off to gear up for the workweek.

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Travel Buzzkill

So, what could be the ultimate buzzkill in living abroad? Could it be serious illness (well, probably), surgery (I'm sure that'd be a buzzkill), unexpected bad news from home (yeah, that would be bad too), craving a cheap breakfast taco from the Taco Cabana and knowing there's no way you could fulfill that craving without at least a 24 hour flight (that's pretty bad)? No. The ultimate travel buzzkill (aside from the previous ones actually happening) is waking up one day when you're trying to be cheap on cash and realizing that your new foreign environment feels domestic.

Right now Daegu feels oddly a bit like Fort Lauderdale, except the mountains are much prettier than the ones in Fort Lauderdale (because those are landfills.) There's no good reason for this other than we're going on a big trip in a few weeks and don't want to spend the money required to go out and eat new things and see sites and such. I also think that learning to read Hangeul, while greatly helpful during our time here (especially with menus and such) kinda ruins the foreign mystique of all of the signage. There's nothing quite exotic as realizing that the sign for "Eyemart" is just "Eyemart" spelled out in Korean phonetics, right?

I've been feeling the urge to get out of Korea since we started looking at Bali. Don't get me wrong, I like Korea, a lot. It's a pretty nice place to live. It just didn't feel shiny and new anymore. So I think the problem is that we need to do some new things to remind us that this place is really not that much like home. I think we're on a pretty good start to this mission next week with the Boryeong Mud Festival. Normally there's no way in hell you could get me to slather myself in mud for fun, but I really want to do something different right now, and you know what...that's different. Sure it's going to be a bunch of westerners getting drunk and mudding without a pick up truck, but we don't do that at home either. Throw in the fact that it happens on the East China Sea and suddenly it's very exotic.

The next weekend we're headed down to Busan for a weekend. It'll be fun, since it's the 2nd largest city in Korea and it's situated right on the Sea of Japan. Once again, throw in a foreign body of water and all of the sudden the plan becomes exotic. This will be fun for lots of reasons. One of those reasons is that our friend BritBrit lives in Busan and we'll get to try her favorite eateries. The 2nd reason is that we can pre-tan a bit (also in Boryeong) for Bali. I'm particularly excited to just get the hell out of Daegu for a bit.

This is a really small country, and it would be so easy to see a whole hell of a lot of it by the time we head home. There's giant penis statues somewhere on the east coast up north and there's all sorts of great temples and stuff to see. Have I even mentioned the incredible singing highway in Anyang? Haven't been there yet either. There's plenty left to see in Korea that I'll probably never have the chance to see again once we've left here, we just need to get out and see it.

Now, to prove that we're not slouches, here's a list of cool stuff we've seen and done.

  • 1 week in Busan at Pukyong National University
  • Climbed most of the way to Gatbawi on Mt. Palgongsan
  • Been to Dongwhasa Temple on Mt. Palgongsan
  • Climbed Mt. Apsan
  • Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival
  • Taekwondo World Championships in Gyeongju
  • Toured Seoul
  • Rafted the Hantan River
  • Joined a Taekwondo school (we're orange belts now. Yeah, we're dangerous.)
  • Watched local talent at the Dongseongno Festival
Yeah. We're not slouches. We just need to re foreignify Korea. Maybe after we get back from Bali :).

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thinking About Visiting Me?

Yay! If you're reading this you're probably thinking about visiting me. Here are the pertinent details.

The airport code for Seoul is ICN. I think your cheapest flights will land here. After you land at the airport you need to find the Seoul Airport Railway. It's the dark blue line on the Seoul Subway map. You're actually landing in Incheon, so it should be easy to find at the airport. The subway cars are big with room for baggage and racks on this line, so you don't have to worry about fighting for space (too much. It is Korea though so be ready to give up your personal space.)

Get off of this line at Seoul Station. Take the escalators up to the Korail station. I would allow about 2.5 hours to get from the airport to Seoul Station. This should leave time for bathroom breaks and picking up something tasty and familiar to eat in the station before you get on the train.

You can buy your KTX (bullet train) tickets online before you come. (There is a small English button in the upper right corner. You want the KTX from Seoul to Dongdaegu. If KTX isn't available for that day you can take the Saemaul train, but it's quite a bit longer at 3.5 hours or so.) Buy them in advance to ensure that you have a seat. It should cost no more than 45,000 won for a standard fare. I think for a bit more you can get a nicer seat, but it's only an hour and 45 minutes to get to Daegu. Try to get the seats in the middle of the car that face each other too. You can buy the tickets and make sure to have a seat 3-4 days in advance easily. Sometimes there's festivals and stuff that make it harder to find a train though, so earlier is better ;).

You'll have to check in at the ticket counter with your passport to pick up your tickets. Have your printout and the passport of whoever made the reservation handy. At Seoul Station they will most likely know enough English to help you. If not here is the useful phrase written in horrible romanization to help you out.

"Say-gay saram dongdaegu gada" - "three people going dongdaegu"

If you missed your train because of a delay don't worry, changing reservations is only about 800 wons each. That's less than 80 cents.

Now, grab your snacks and get on the train. The KTX is super cool. You'll get to see the southern part of Seoul and Gyeonggi-do, the province that is basically Seoul Metro. It's HUGE. You'll cross the Han river on your way out of Seoul, go into a tunnel, and when you come out the landscape will be whizzing by at 300km/hour. You will make stops in Daejeon and Gumi, I think. Stay on the train. No one will ask to see your tickets as long as you're in your assigned seat.

They will make an announcement that you are approaching Dongdaegu. Get your stuff and head for the doors. You won't know which door will open until you've arrived and it actually opens. Go up the stairs to find yourself in the lobby of Dongdaegu Station. Look for the tallest guy in the area. It's probably me.

From here we'll probably need to take the subway or two cabs to get you and your bags to our place. If you need to stay at the Novotel or some other hotel in Downtown Daegu we can get you there from the station pretty easily. We'll also make sure and have subway cards for you when you get here and give you our phone numbers so you can call us if you get lost. :)

Now that you're here, we'll take you for dinner somewhere nice. You'll probably want a restaurant with chairs since you've been flying for 24 hours, but we can find places with floor seats if you want the authentic experience.

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30 Days to Go

Ah. Final exams. The joyful time of year where I don't really have to work, but rather just sit at my desk while the kids do the hard work and I play around on the internet. This is good and nerve-wracking.

The good:

  • I have plenty of time to come up with an awesome idea for my 3 day Summer Camp in 2 weeks.
  • I won't have a headache at the end of the day.
  • I get to eat whatever I want for lunch, because the cafeteria is closed.
  • There's plenty of current events to become an expert on what with the U.S.'s potential to cause economic calamity by not raising the national debt ceiling.
  • Sometimes friends and family pop onto facebook and it's good to chat a bit.
  • It's fun to read about our chosen vacation destination online. Travel blogs are always fun and interesting to read.
The nerve-wracking:
  • I'm having trouble coming up with awesome ideas for my 3 day Summer Camp in 2 weeks. Eek!
  • The current events I tend to read about make me angry...or at least agitated.
  • Sometimes friends and family DON'T pop onto facebook and chat for a bit.
  • Reading about vacation destinations online makes me want to go on vacation NOW NOW NOW. But there's still 30 days (exactly 30 days) until we get to go.
All in all though, these are perfect days at work. You see, I like my job. In fact, I like my job quite a lot. This could be confusing to explain. The job I have right now is great, but I don't really enjoy working. I'd rather read about travel, travel, play video games, read about the U.S. national deficit, ANYTHING, other than work. So, sitting at a desk for a few hours without doing any actual work is perfect. Plus I don't really have any extra money to spend at the moment...I'd rather spend it somewhere like...Bali.

Next weekend we're traveling to Boryeong, a city on the West Sea (if you're in Korea, the East China Sea is the West Sea, and the Sea of Japan is the East Sea) with some sort of magical superhealthy mud. The point of the trip is to get slathered in mud and hang out with other foreigners, but it sounds like a pretty good deal of fun. I'm mainly looking forward to seeing a new place. Daegu is nice but all the buildings look pretty much the same, all of the stores carry the same product, and it doesn't feel very foreign anymore. On our trips to Seoul, Jinhae, Gyeongju, and the Hantan River it's always been refreshing to see some new sites. This is our last in-country trip before our big summer vacay, too. 

Anyhow, I know the updates have been a bit more mundane lately, but with the rainy season weather and our fairly busy schedules (taekwondo 3 nights a week, something almost every weekend) there hasn't been much time for pondering, contemplation, and weak self-realizations necessary to maintain the awesomeness of a blog. In just 40 days or so you will be bombarded with pictures and text that describes the magical island of Bali, so stay tuned!

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transformers 3 and a night of Sport Shopping in Daegu

Ahhh, so the summer blockbuster orgy continues. Friday night after work I met Babehoney down at the Lotte Young Plaza downtown to go to the CGV movie theater and see Transformers 3. It made for a really nice night out, and we even got the last two seats together in the theater. Lucky us. I thought the movie was pretty great, and the special effects were awesome. When we get home we'll definitely get the Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack :).  I particularly enjoyed the scene where Bumblebee throws Sam out of his seat, does some sort of cartwheel, and catches him. It was pretty epic. Anyway, that was another of many nights at the movie. Amazingly we got seats on the Subway for the ride home. That might have something to do with the fact that they just upped the fares 150 wons per trip. That's only about 15 cents or so.

Saturday it rained. All day. I walked down and got a haircut, got cleaned up, and after it stopped raining we headed downtown again to "just look" at some things. My sandals broke just after we got downtown, and since they were what I was planning to wear to Bali, it was time to find something new. I wasn't about to buy another set of made in China and going to fall apart soon sandals, so we went to Merrell and Salomon. I really wanted the Merrell sandals I found to fit, but my feet are just too damn big for shoe shopping in Korea. The Salomon sore had the biggest size imported into the country, 285mm. That's about a 10.5 US size. I usually wear an 11.5-12. But somehow they fit. They were uncomfortable at first, but I think now that they're breaking in a bit I'm going to be just fine in Bali. I also got a new set of flip flops for the trip, because mine look like trash. So, we're all set to head to Indonesia next month. The countdown calendar in our kitchen has us at T-34 days and counting. I also bought a loofa and some facial soap and body wash at the Olive Young downtown. I feel so fancy, but really with the humidity here (it's oppressive, like Florida or Southeast Texas. Not as hot, but there is NO breeze a lot of the time because of the mountains that surround the city) I needed to get some better cleansers. I feel a lot better now :).

That's all for now.

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