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!

2008년 10월 16일 목요일

Our Engagement and John & Anthony's Birthday

On October 28th, Heather and I got engaged at a restaurant on Dalmaji Hill in Haeundae. This date was actually our anniversary, because we started dating on October 28th, 2006. Back when I first started posting photos of Heather on here, I didn't know if it would be good to share too much of my personal life online. But I've since realised that the blog is as much for my own memories and reflection as it is for your interest.

Anyway, this is how it happened that day...

We were both lucky enough to have a day off work and went to Mt Geumjeong in central Busan. We hiked up to the summit in the late afternoon and it was a difficult but rewarding climb. The views of the city are better than anywhere else.

Here's Heather resting on a rock. Little did she know what plans I had for her that day. Ho ho ho.

We took the cable car back down as they were closing up. In this photo, Heather had turned around suddenly and was trying to decide whether she wanted to be in it or not. I like these kinds of photos.

Here's a photo that Heather took of me in the cable car. For all the photographing and blogging that I do, I must say that I still feel a little strange when I know someone is taking a photo of me.

After that we went to the Vesta spa and bath house in Haeundae to relax in the warm waters. It was pretty empty, and I had a massage from my favourite massage chair: The O2 Zone. While you're receiving the massage from this machine, a large visor covers your upper body and it plays rainforest music while wafting peppermint-scented oxygen around you. Kind of nice...

Then we went to this restaurant for the first time. It's called The Kitchen, and I heard about it from Ellis in the office. The location is on Dalmaji Hill, which roughly translates to 'moon-viewing hill'.

It was a very classy place and honestly served the best Italian food I've had in Korea. Everything was going perfectly that night.

Here are the home-made breads that they served. Apart from sour rye bread, they also included thinly sliced eggplant which was fried until golden and crispy. You can see it on top of the garlic bread here. The round thing in the centre is a dry roasted garlic bulb, cut horizontally. It was very pleasantly flavoured and the hallmark of an accomplished chef in the kitchen.

For entrée we ordered this roast duck and rocket lettuce salad. It was superb and had subtle traces of prune, grilled tomato and mandarin flavours. It was shortly after this that I proposed. I didn't get down on one knee and I didn't have a ring (I decided that it would be best if we chose one together), but I popped the question pretty smoothly after we were talking about our relationship for a while. And right then, the waiter came with our main courses. So I had to wait until she had left before Heather said 'yes'.

After that we started giggling together and drank some champagne.

The waiter took this photo of us afterward. I told her that we had just gotten engaged and she said that we were a very good couple.

Our main courses were really good too. We both ordered different pasta, but I forgot to take a photo of it before we started eating it, because my thoughts were mostly 'Hooray, we're engaged'.

After dinner, the waiter directed us to the top floor balcony of the building where there weren't any people. We spent some time up here enjoying the views of Haeundae beach.

After that, we went for a walk on the hill.

The following Saturday, we had our engagement celebration. Coincidentally, it was also John and Anthony's birthday during the same week. We only wanted a small group of friends and Anthony invited us to his apartment. Lately we have developed an appreciation for Moet & Chandon champage that usually retails for around $120 per bottle at restaurants. Obviously we don't get to drink it that often, but this was a special occasion.

Luckily for us, there was a sale at Lotte on that week, that began on the Friday. Bottles of our favourite drink were only $57 per bottle. So we bought a lot of them.

Jef arranged this nice little display for us. We bought a total of 16 bottles that night, and consumed 14 of them. If you're never been tipsy on real champagne before, it's something that you need to try.

Earlier in the day, Anthony and I went out and bought this large pot, which we used as the ice bucket.

And it wouldn't have been complete without a good amount of fine foods, which had been carefully selected. We had pork, real foie gras, capers, dill pickles and a nice selection of cheeses like Camembert, Gouda and Blue.

An occasion like this would not have been as good without some awesome friends to celebrate with us. We had a lot of toasts that night.

Following this are the people who attended:

Well, first of all, here's me. Being an amateur gastronomist and cooking enthusiast, I handled all the sandwich making for the night. Each person's French roll was cut and tailored to individual tastes. The core ingredients were pork (or tuna), cheddar cheese, tomato, black pepper and sun-dried tomato pesto. Anthony and I had gone out earlier on the day, with me riding on the back of his scooter, to seek out food for the night.

Next is my lovely girlfriend of the past two years and now fiancé, Heather Jung. The question for me wasn't if I wanted to marry her or not, it was when the best time to ask would be.

The world would be a better place if everyone had a friend like Heather.

Most of the photos in the latter part of this blog were taken by Amanda Johnson, grinning here at the reflective ceiling of the elevator. She took this shot with Jef, as they were coming up to the engagement party. I'm glad she took a lot of photos that night, because I had stopped fairly early. Amanda would best be described as bubbly and energetic, yet straightforward and intelligent when the occasion warrants.

Amanda has been around since the beginning. The previous photo reminded me of this one from 2006 which you can find in the 'September' archive. We took this together during CDI training in Seoul, at Namsan tower. We've all come a long way, but are still here working for the same company, which says a lot for our school and Korea in general.

Next is Jef Robison, a staunch friend of ours and a popular socialite in high demand. Cultured, traveled and with heavily refined social skills, Jef is the kind of person you want at an occasion like this. He knows what good food is, and how to avoid hyenas in Africa.

Next is the guy I have been living with for the past year. John Ngo is a Vietnamese/Chinese Canadian who is quiet, but friendly and unassuming. Mild mannered and easy to get along with, John is the kind of guy who will play video games for 5 hours on a weeknight and then wake up early to watch American football. I believe he is doing some sort of gang sign in this photo.

On the left here is Heather's friend, who is Korean but usually lives in Melbourne. Her name is also Heather and they met many years ago at Mount Rushmore in the States. Heather (my Heather) actually got her name from this Heather back then and has kept it ever since.

You can never have too many Heathers.

Here's Anthony Nguyen, who you all were acquainted with in the last blog post. In Australian lingo, Anthony is what we'd call a 'top bloke'. A good day for him is hanging out with the boys and fishing while drinking beer. Anthony is the kind of person who suggests things to do on the weekends via text message, all in upper case and with plenty of exclamation marks. An example would be: "LETS GET SOME BEERS AND HANG OUT IN MY BOMB APARTMENT YO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!", although there would normally be a few spelling errors in there.

It is not uncommon to receive such a message from him at midday.

One interesting aspect of Anthony's personality we found out about is that he is mildly obssessive-compulsive. He likes to arrange his entire bathroom cabinet with everything lined up neatly and all labels facing the same way. Amanda took delight in disorganising the cabinet into an unimaginable state of chaos that night. Anthony tried to hide his enthusiasm from us as we watched him frantically put everything back into its proper place.

He would make an excellent librarian.

Next is Daniel Pak, a close friend of mine since Year 8 in middle school back home. Daniel has matured a lot since those days and we've had a lot of good times together over the years. Daniel is the kind of friend who will help you bury a body. Situations requiring such help would be few and far between in a lifetime, but so are friends who would stick around until the end.

And last but not least is Jennifer Pejic, the head instructor at Heather's branch who can always be counted on to listen when you need listening to. As an accomplished skateboarder and a hackey-sack competition winner, Jen is full of surprises that you only find out about if you ask the right questions.

We ended up doing a good number on the Moet and spent the night away chattering, drinking and laughing, while listening to nostalgic tunes on Anthony's laptop. We spent the time between the bedroom and the balcony, talking about the good times passed and those we hope for in the future.

Here's me again, pretending that I don't like kisses. I'll probably grow out of that one day.

When you link arms and drink like this, it's called a love shot.

We had an amazing time that night, with fine food and wine, a close circle of great friends and an apartment with a view to match. Reflecting on this and my time here in Korea in general, I've been luckier than I ever imagined I would be.

Wherever you are in the world right now, I propose an invisible champagne toast with you. To our engagement, to John and Anthony's birthday, to all those who are a good friend to someone else, and to a peaceful and prosperous future for everyone.

It's been fun sharing the blog with you all thus far, and I intend to keep doing so.

See you next time!