Thursday, January 29, 2009

When the Korean winterscape gets you down reach for your favorite comfort food

Julianne and I woke up this morning and went out to run some errands. After printing off maps of Busan (we're going there this weekend) in my office we headed to a Korean restaurant for lunch.

Dolsot Bibimbap (stone bowl rice mixed with vegetables and egg)

After a delicious lunch we walked home slowly. The weather was warmer but the grey, brown, and dull blues of the Korean winterscape we're kind of blah . . . even the mountains didn't do much to cheer me up.

So after a fantastic nap we decided to pull out some comfort food for dinner. There was only one problem--no can opener . . . lol.

For the past three and a half years in Korea I've pretty much been eating out at restaurants. After teaching all day and coming home tired, and sometimes exhausted, the last thing I'd want to do is cook. Korean restaurants have cheap, fast, and healthy food--and you don't have to do dishes after too! So . . . I never bought a can opener.

The solution? Use a large knife and a bottle as a hammer . . . LOL.

Julianne likes black beans--I'm NOT a fan . . . though it's been years, if not decades, since I tried them so maybe I'll try them again (she has 2 more in the cupboard). Me, I'm a die-hard fan of wieners and beans . . . yum!

Julianne had her beans with slices of cheese melted onto them and then used nacho chips to eat them with. Oh yeah, she also had a couple hot dogs with some cheese too.

Me, I went old school . . . I cut my wieners into small pieces and then mixed them into the beans . . . oh baby. And to take the carbo coma I would imminently fall into to a whole new Homer Simpson level I added slices of cheese . . . and . . .

. . . ketchup!

The blurring here is to help you, the reader, get a sense of the gastrointestinal ecstasy of the Homerian food philosophy . . . hmmmm, wieners and beans with cheese and ketchup . . . aughguughgughaughuagh!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happiest Blogger Nomination? -- Wow . . .

When Roboseyo posted a comment letting me know I had been nominated for "Happiest Korea Blogger" I nearly fell off my chair in shock and disbelief.

I deliberately choose not to post on the Internet, a GLOBAL STAGE, all of the vitriolic commentary about the insanity that I experience for at least one moment each day as I live and teach in Korea.

Writing is an act of survival for many people. Writing about lived experiences is also a re-enactment--I generally choose to not re-enact things that make me crazy about living and working in Korea because experiencing the trauma once is more than enough.

In 2007 I nearly lost my sanity and my humanity because of the working conditions I had and I made myself a promise to focus on the things I can control and change, and learned to let go--for the most part--the things that I can't. Posting for the voyeuristic consumption of others on the Net my episodes of temporary rage and insanity when things happen is not a part of that agenda.

Anyways . . . I'll write more about this later--Julianne is sitting next to me putting on her socks and full of "we gotta go do stuff" energy (more on that later too).

The coolest thing about The Golden Klog Awards is that there are a ton of new blogs I'm going to be checking out over the next week or so.

I'm curious to see who wins the Happiest Blogger--I'm pretty sure it won't be me.

Happiest Korea Blogger, 2008
Eat Your Kimchi
Expat Jane
Going Places
Kimchi-Ice Cream
Seoul Patch


Namsan Tower in Seoul, South Korea

This past Monday morning Julianne and I got into a taxi to go to Namsan Tower on Namsan (or Nam mountain).

I told the taxi driver in Korean to take us to the tower and foolishly assumed he would take us to the cable car that sits at the bottom of the small mountain (Namsan) that the tower is on. The cable car ride up, or down, is very cool. It's fun to ride, and of course, you can take pics of the view of Seoul.

Instead of taking us to the cable car he took us ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP--wow. I had no idea you could drive up to the top of Namsan. I have walked up the path before with all of the stairs, etc, and that's alright as long as it's not insanely humid and hot (like it was in July when I decided to go in 2007). We'll probably go again sometime in the future and make sure we take the cable car too.

It was an awesome winter day for taking pictures. Before we had left for Seoul I had been reading up on how to take good landscape pics--I think the tips helped me out as I got a lot of really nice shots.

Because it was Seollal (Korean New Year) there were a lot of Koreans and tourists at the tower too. Some people were playing traditional Korean games.

The sky wasn't just a pure blue and the clouds seemed to be working in my favor to add a nice element to the pics.

This pavilion sits below the tower in a kind of large open courtyard where people were playing games.

At the base of the tower there are two observation platforms. The one on the right has power binoculars you can use to look at Seoul. It also is surrounded by a fence covered in locks that lovers have written messages on and then locked onto the fence.

Some of them even put their picture on the lock too--hope they're still together, lol.

Taking pics on the observation platform with the sun shining towards my camera was 'interesting' in terms of trying to get the right exposure settings . . .

On the second observation platform where the tower sits along with two restaurants and an outdoor covered eating area there were more lovers' locks. I'm not sure why the locks are put on this bell-shaped thing but whatever floats your boat, right?

Just below the tower and observation platforms are these beehive shaped smoke signal chimneys . . . they sit on their own platform and offer a spectacular view of Seoul.

I love the sky in this picture . . . there's a whole Simpsons thing goin' on here, lol. These shots are taken standing on the small platform on which the beehive chimneys sit.

As I said in another post, lately I've been on a taking portraits with a landscape in the background pics spree . . .

This Korean grandmother was working a MANUAL cotton candy making machine. There is a foot pedal she was pushing to spin the machine to make the cotton candy--wow. Older Koreans make the elderly I know in Canada look extremely weak. When I think of the number of times a Korean grandmother or grandfather has PASSED ME while I was hiking an insanely steep mountain path or set of stairs it makes me grin like a fool and yet at the same time be in awe of their health and stamina.

Some more landscape shots . . .

This shot has to be my all time favorite (so far, lol) picture of Julianne. I love how her gorgeous red hair is floating a little in the wind, how the color of it is accentuated by the sunlight, and of course, everything about how she looks here.

We then took some of the obligatory "I was there" shots . . .

And then a few more portrait with landscape shots . . .

And then a few more landscape shots of Seoul . . .

Having taken several hundred pics we were tired and cold so we started walking down the long winding road that the taxi had driven us up. You can also take another way down from the tower on a path that is much faster but I hadn't walked the mountain roadway and wanted to see what views it had of Seoul.

About midway down the road we came across a stone wall that runs up the side of the Namsan . . . we were too tired to explore it but will maybe go back some other time.

We decided it was time to head back to Chuncheon by train. To kill time, as usual, I took pics of the landscape as the sun was setting.

Sitting at one of the train station stops I looked out the window and noticed the reflection in the windshield . . . cool.

Just outside of Chuncheon (sorry, not sure exactly where) there is a hotel with the Eiffel Tower sitting on top of it . . . the first time I saw it I nearly wet myself laughing . . .

On the train ride home, however, with the setting sun sitting behind it, it was beautiful yet a little bit surreal . . .

The temperatures were so cold that large parts of the river just outside of Chuncheon had frozen over. I noticed these very funky pattterns in the ice and wondered what had caused them.

The river takes on a whole new look when it's covered with ice and snow. Add the lighting of a setting sun and it's really nice.

Back in Chuncheon and walking towards the train station I saw this . . .

I LOVE the blue skies of late fall and winter in Korea. I'm NOT looking forward to the spring and summer and the crappy skies that the Chinese yellow dust brings . . .

. . . so for now I'll just enjoy the gorgeous night blues in this shot.


Weird bacon for breakfast, a walk by the river, and dokgalbi for dinner

Julianne bought some 'bacon' at the M department store in Chuncheon. I was skeptical as to the quality and rightfully so. I've never tried 'artificial bacon'--but I imagine that what I ate this morning is what it would taste like.

Today was a pretty lazy day for both of us. We woke up around 10am, ate, and then Julianne went back to bed and napped for a while. I blogged and played Mindjolt games on facebook.

Around 5pm we headed out to get some fresh air and exercise. We decided to walk along the river that runs next to our apartment. I hadn't noticed these wall paintings before and took some pics.

The Green Lantern's sister?

The Flintstone's distant cousins?

Ralph Waldo Emerson's 'all seeing floating eye of destiny'?

I have no idea . . .

The mountains that always lie in the background no matter where you are in Chuncheon really add a wonderful atmosphere to a walk outside.

Some sections of the river had been almost completely covered over with ice but the warmer temperatures over the last day or so have melted a lot of it.

Lately, I seem to be on a portrait with landscape in the background picture taking spree.

Yikes . . . I look like I'm standing barefoot on ice while trying to smile and look happy--and FAILING MISERABLY! Lol . . . it was getting colder as the sun dropped.

We decided to have Julianne's favorite--dokgalib for dinner.

After I took this picture the ajumma walked back into the kitchen and about 5 seconds later I heard them cackling--I imagine they thought it was hysterical that the foreign guy took a picture of a hand mixing dokgalbi while it cooked.

Julianne and I eat at this restaurant about once every two weeks, and sometimes more often. They only charge us 16,000won for the meal and it's really good food. Many of the servers recognize us, and they've seen us eating with chopsticks . . . but for the second time in the last 3 visits I was asked if I wanted a 'pork' . . . modify the "p" into an "f" and you get "fork" (Koreans have a hard time making the correct sounds with p, b, f, and v. I looked at the ajumma with a kind of incredulous expression and said no thank you.

After dinner we walked over to a CGV (movie theater) to see what was playing. The "Changeling" with Angelina Jolie was listed but didn't start for almost 2 hours so we gave up and left.

Walking out of the CGV lobby I noticed this wicked display case of Star Wars memoribilia.

I would LOVE to own this . . . I wonder what the value is.

Well, time to go and edit and then upload the last of the pictures from the trip to Seoul.