2008년 12월 7일 일요일

A New Addition to the Family

Life in Busan is coming to an end. I'm mentally preparing for the move to Seoul and wrapping things up down here. I'll be moving to the capital in around 3 weeks time and am feeling pretty good about things in general. Busan is a great city and I'd prefer to stay down here, but Seoul will also be interesting.

Heather, John, Anthony and I went fishing at Gwangali a few weeks ago. Here's John and Anthony fishing off the artificial rocks. We bought fishing gear and shrimp bait that day and stayed out for a few hours. We didn't catch anything except seaweed, although Anthony did manage to pull in a starfish using the hand reel. Starfish don't make for good eating, so we threw it back.
I wish I had more opportunities to go fishing. As Henry David Thoreau once said "Many men (and women) go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after."

During the weeknights, Anthony will often be over and we usually cook things up together. In this photo, Anthony has grilled his marinated beef to go with my pad Thai. More often than not, things turn out pretty well. Anthony is very easy to please with food, he thinks just about everything tastes 'bomb'.

Even instant noodles.

Here's a dinner from another night. We made grilled hot dogs with sausages from Daejeon Costco and Neapolitan spaghetti.
Normally we watch movies while we eat, or our two favourite television series: Entourage and The Office.

While we're on the topic of food, here's another dish. This one was made by Joon, a new Korean friend of Daniel. It's called naeng chae jok bal, which means 'cold vegetable pork'. It's roast pork seasoned with vinegar, onion and garlic.

Here's a photo of us from a little while ago, celebrating Obama's victory at the Guri Bar in Seomyeon. I was very happy that Obama won the election, and hope that it's the beginning of a new era of more logical American foreign policy. Because he's also the first black president, I celebrated by only drinking black-coloured drinks that day, like Black Russians and B-52s. Photo: Erick Taggart

In some Mega Mart stores in Korea now, the price tags on the shelves are now digital. They're also solar powered, with the fluorescent lighting of the supermarket providing sufficient power to keep them on. If you cover the small solar panel, the numbers disappear after a few seconds but reappear as soon as you stop. I'm guessing that this upgrade also makes data entry much faster.

Three cheers for technology.

Heather and I recently bought this car. It's a 1997 Daewoo Lanos and we picked it up from a very large used car shop in Dongnae. It runs fairly well. On the inside of the back window Heather put up a chobo unjeon (learner driver) sign.

Here's the newest addition to Heather's family. Her oldest sister just had a baby girl and we came to visit them. Now Heather has two nieces.

Birth is a funny thing. I was used to seeing Heather's sister walking around as a pregnant woman. Now the contents of her stomach are out in the world, breathing, yawning and crying.

Her name is Ji-Woo and she was still too young to open her eyes when I last saw her. If you watch her for long enough, she changes facial expressions while sleeping. I distinctly saw an expression of what seemed to be mellow disgust, followed quickly thereafter by one of pleasant exclamation.

While the range of different human emotions are all too familiar to me, I'm sure they're somewhat of a novelty to little Ji-Woo who was having a fun time trying them out for the first time.

And here's her bigger sister, the one and only Ji-Ae. We played games outside the room while the grown-ups talked and rested. I had forgotten how much free fun you can have if you're around someone with enough energy.

Ji-Ae doesn't quite understand how to play hide-and-seek. She knows how to close her eyes, count and look for someone, but she doesn't know how to hide yet. I tried teaching her but what always happens is that when I count (very loudly and slowly), she'll run off and crouch behind something. Then, as soon as I turn around, she'll jump out and yell "RAAaaA!"

Heather also tried to explain the concept of hiding to her, but I think she's getting confused with another game they play at her daycare centre. Still, it was fun to play.

Anthony hosted a gathering at his apartment for the Korean staff of the Busanjin branch. We walked down to the nearby live seafood shop at the end of Gwangan beach and bought around $100 worth of raw fish. That's enough to feed a small army. You can buy around two dozen raw oysters in the shell for $5.

You basically pick and choose which fish you want and the vendors will pluck them out, quench the flapping with a well-placed knife blow to the head, and chop them up into bite sized pieces. You can literally be eating the same meat that was swimming around in the water 10 minutes ago.

Flounders are funny fish. They spend their youth as free-swimming normal looking fish. When they mature, one eye migrates to the other side of the head and they spend their days lying on one side at the sandy bottom of the sea. Looking up into the sunlight, they spot silhouettes of smaller fish and can rise up surprisingly fast. Their two eyes can rotate independently of one another.

I think of them as Picasso Fish, because of the irregular faces they have.

The vendors are nearly all Korean ajummas, who are famous for their fiery personalities. Here's a video of our favourite lady, chopping up a live octopus for us with typical ajumma dexterity and nonchalance.

We brought back our catch to the apartment and feasted on the marine life with wasabi, lemon juice and chili sauce. The five people on the left are all staff from Anthony and John's CDI branch.

We played some drinking games and got a little tipsy. This is a video showing the technique for making a soju bomb. You need two shot glasses, one larger glass, beer, soju (or vodka if you don't have any) and Fanta or Coke. The soft drink goes in the bottom shot glass, followed by soju in the second and then beer is poured on top. If you drink it in one go, the final glass acts as a chaser.

Three of these will assist conversational abilities with any stranger.

Last weekend, Heather and I went up to Seoul to meet my professor. Near the hotel where we stayed, this enormous pot of seolleung-tang (beef bone soup), was quietly bubbling in a shop front window. That's enough seolleung-tang to feed around 50 people.

We also visited the Mok-dong CDI campus, which is one of the seven main branches in Seoul. Donna is the Branch Manager of this campus now. She was our first BM in Busan when we started.

The Mok-dong branch has 1600 students and 40 teachers.

CDI Test Prep is a relatively new program that prepares students for school entrance exams. It's catered toward advanced students and the Mok-dong branch has an entire floor devoted to it. At this branch there are 800 Eagle level-or-higher students. Eagle level is textbook material for high school native English speaking students.

The computer lab. I saw an interesting talk on TED recently, about the misplaced idea that more computers equals better education. Clifford Stoll (an American physicist) says that the increasing number of computers in schools can stifle other important skills that children need to learn.

To a certain extent, I agree.

Donna took us out to lunch at the Del Cruise buffet, a rather flash restaurant near the school. Any self-respecting buffet in Korea these days will have escargots, sashimi and fresh lychee as standard fare.

Heather with her two new friends.

We also met up with Jang-Ho, Heather's younger brother. We drank together at a bar in Myeong-dong for quite some time before trying to catch a taxi to get home. That's him with the scarf, clutching the box of his mother's banchan that we brought up from Busan. Late at night in Seoul, because there are so many customers and not enough taxis, it can take more than an hour before you finally manage to flag one down.

I've started organising my accommodation in Seoul, as well as mentally preparing for the change. To become a student again, after two and a half years of working life means that I'll have to reinvent myself to a certain degree. Deep down, I always was more of the academic type, but a lot of my science know-how has lain dormant since I left Australia. It won't be long until the dusty textbooks of my mind will need to be reopened.

There's a lot of hard work and a big challenge ahead of me. Heather puts up with my occasional complaining about such things, which means that you guys are all spared for the time being. Thanks to her, Lee's Korea Blog is not merely an avenue for the negative grumblings of a soon-to-be overworked Australian Korean student.

See you next time!

2008년 10월 26일 일요일

Ji-Ae and Anthony's New Apartment

During the warmer months, a lot of the teaching community here will flock to the beach areas on weekends. When winter approaches, this slows down and night traffic turns back toward the inner city regions such as the Kyungsung, PNU and Seomyeon areas. These days I rarely go out during the week, but like to spend the weekends out somewhere.

Here's the Gwangan bridge at night, which is always lit up until past midnight. It actually has two levels on it for traffic flowing in opposite directions. Anthony just moved into an apartment near here, so we'll return to this area of the city shortly.

Here are some creative English teachers forming a human structure on the beach. They tried to get a person on the third level but appeared to be lacking the gymnastical expertise. If there is such a term. The bar we were drinking at is approximately 50 metres from this site.

A little while ago, I went with Heather's family to a temple out of town. Most temples in Korea are very similar, but this one is a little different.

This statue guards the entrance with his groove. The idea of statues like this is that they are supposed to intimidate bad spirits away from the temple. I wish I had a stomach like that.

Amongst the greenery were other stone carvings which were quite nice. On tops of mountains and things here, you can find a lot of piles of rocks that have been placed by people. I recently found out that such rock-piles are called cairns - in English, and dolmudogi in Korean. There's a city in Australia called Cairns.

I wonder if they have any cairns there.

One of the famous stone pagodas. The top spire is typical of buddhist imagery and has even been incorporated into the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. Spires symbolise the aspirations of man to reach higher states.

I saw a documentary on Discovery channel, you see.

Here's Heather and her father snapping some photos. Heather's father is pretty nice and tries to talk to me from time to time. I used to understand around 5% of what he says, but now I understand around 15%. When he smiles and asks a questions, I smile and say yes.

Under the hands of the statue was a wasp, oblivious to our clamouring and busy building a nest. I guess we're not the only ones just trying to get by in the world.

Rubbing the belly of happy stone buddhas is supposed to bring good luck. Sometimes I rub my own tummy these days because it's gotten a lot bigger than I remember. I've put on around 5 kilos since coming to Korea.

And it's also good luck if you pour water over this buddha. I don't believe in any of that stuff, but I still poured water over him. Because you know... well, you never know.

Ji-Ae is Heather's four year old niece who can generally be found running around and being adorable. She used to avoid me when I first met her, but now she talks to me a lot. In Korean, of course. We can actually have moderately long conversations with each other.

She says that I talk funny.

"Lee-shee samcheon, don isseo!"

"Cousin Lee, I have money!"

She's very active and is always trying to get people to play games with her. In this photo, she was trying to get the camera from me.

Here we are in the car. Ji-ye took this photo of us with her outstretched hand. Pretty good for a four year old, eh?

But this was her first attempt. I taught her the importance of keeping a certain distance from the camera. Maybe one day she'll be a great photographer.

And here are her subsequent photos of Heather and me on the same car trip. Every time I make a face like this, Ji-Ae giggles. So I often find myself doing them a lot.

After that we went to a nice restaurant in the area called Mulle-Banga, which means 'Water Wheel'.

The place was pretty packed and specialised in samgyetang and agujjim (ginseng chicken and fish stew). The food was excellent and the fish was fresh from the river.

Unfortunately I didn't get to take any photos of the food, because Ji-Ae took a liking to my camera. After taking a lot of photos, she somehow discovered the time-delay function with flash. She would sit the camera on the table, press the button and wait for the excitement of being blinded. So after around a hundred of these photos, the camera battery went dead. Apart from the food though, there wasn't much else to take photos of that day.

On the right of this photo is Amy, who works for Geoje April (one of our schools in the centre of the city). This scene was from her recent house warming party. Amy's boyfriend, Ian, was actually a reader of this blog prior to this gathering, which was the first time we met. It's nice to know that there are people out there who read it.

Our apartment is a popular drop-in centre for teachers in the area. That's because we're fairly centrally located and have ready access to beer. Sometimes we play poker and eat chicken, other times we sit and talk about games like Dota.

Which happens to be a very cool game.

Anthony was living with us for a few weeks while his new place was getting lined up. He recently moved in and the wait was worth it. His apartment is right next to the water at Gwangali beach, one of the most popular locations in the city.

Heather's old high school friend helped him move. He doesn't speak any English but has helped us before with his very handy mini-truck. It's good to know Koreans in Korea.

Anthony was pretty excited on the day that he moved in. Here's a video of him and us on the first day.

Here's Heather and Anthony discussing the pressing issues of the world. We had a mini house-warming party that night, which consisted of OB Beer (which they don't sell in Seomyeon for some reason) and onion chips.

And this is the view out of Anthony's window, showing Gwangali bridge. It's more impressive during the day. We'll return here for some day-time shots in the next blog post.

Anthony is very enthusiastic about things in general and likes to exercise constantly. His apartment is right on the beach, allowing him to run around on the sand in the morning and do Anthony-type things. He bought a surfboard here a while ago and it broke, so he bought a new one on the same day. "This one is unbreakable!" he told me when he showed me. Why didn't he just buy an unbreakable one to begin with?

Only Anthony would know.

See you next time!