Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I handed in my resignation this morning, and I'm packing my stuff right now to go back to Canada . . .

I've had it. I quit this morning, and am packing my stuff to go home to Canada!

More to come later,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

2006 Cherry Blossom Festival in Yeouido, Seoul -- 2009 Cherry Blossoms COMING SOON!!!

This weekend Julianne and I are heading to Seoul to look at the Yeouido-area cherry blossom trees . . .

I have gone to the Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival and the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival every year I've been in Korea. I'm not sure what the actual difference is between the two, or if they're actually the same festival with two different names . . . though the info below says "behind the National Assembly building" for the Hangang part of the festival . . .

Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival

(Information below is from the link in the title.)

Every year nearly 4 million people visit the , one of the most famous festivals in Seoul. This year, the festival is scheduled to run for 16 days, from April 3 (Friday) to April 18 (Saturday). The theme of this year’s festival will be ‘flowers that bloom from the sky’, and various performances, exhibitions, and events will take place throughout the Yeouido Park and Yeouiseo-ro areas.

During the festival period, visitors can admire gorgeous spring flowers such as cherry blossoms, azaleas, forsythias, and royal azaleas set against the backdrop of the Hangang River. Visitors will also be able to enjoy a number of famous performances and works of art by skilled artists from all over the world. A highlight of the festival will be ‘For Tarantella’, a unique collaborative performance by three performing arts companies from Korea and France, and around 100 other performances will take place during the festival at locations along the cherry blossom roads. Seven performing arts companies have been specially invited from the United States, France, Japan, and other countries, and many companies from Korea will also take part in the festival.

Convenient public transportation is available to the <2009>. Please visit the links below or call the travel information line (1330) for more information and for directions to the festival.

☞Period: April 3, 2009 (Friday) ~ April 18, 2009 (Saturday)
☞Location: Yeouido Park and Yeouiseo-ro areas (behind the National Assembly building)
☞Transportation: Exit #4, subway line 2, Dangsan station, 15min walk / Exit #1~3, Yeouinaru station, subway line 5, 20min walk / Exit #1, Yeouido station, subway line 5, 25min walk
☞Programs: Opening ceremony, parade, live performances (47 domestic and international performance companies; all free of charge; “Fringe” team, and more), exhibitions (flower decoration exhibitions, travel photography exhibition, composition contest, poetry recitals, etc.)
☞Travel Information Telephone: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞Homepage: http://english.ydp.go.kr/B030000.asp (English)

Simply put, just head to the 2km laneway that runs around the National Assembly building in the Yeouido area next to the Han river and you'll find the festival. You can see the laneway and assembly building in the pic below.

If you love taking pics like I do this festival is like going to picture opportunity heaven . . . in 2006 I only had a Pentax point and shoot camera, and still think that I got some awesome pics. Now that I have a pretty good SLR camera it's going to be even more fun to go and take pictures.

This dude had a seriously cool rig for selling hot dogs.

I was a little late getting to the festival in 2006. You can see the cherry blossom petals already beginning to fall off the trees.

I love this pic with the woman wearing the pink dress . . .

There's a park near the river (argh, can't think of the name right now) that has a lot of cherry blossom trees and other flowers too.

If you hate crowds I would strongly suggest you avoid the Yeouido area during this festival, and especially on weekends.

Trying to set up a tripod to take pics on the sidewalks is pretty much impossible, and even on the laneway itself is difficult. If you want to do these kinds of shots I'd suggest going very early in the morning on a weekday.

Like I said, expect CROWDS.

Yep, it's me. If you're around the area and see a shaved head guy with "Matrix"-sunglasses (every Korean student says this) please say hi.

Uhm . . . right, I'd forgotten about this picture. Expect to see 'interesting' English printed on t-shirts and sweaters . . .

Down by the river I ran into a large number of kids flying kites.

National Assembly building.

I think this weekend might be a little early to be checking out the cherry blossoms around Yeouido and the National Assembly building . . . . but I was in Seoul yesterday running errands and saw several single trees on the sidewalks that already had cherry blossoms in partial bloom if not full bloom . . .

Saturday is supposed to have a fair amount of clear skies in Seoul and cool/cold temperatures . . . I don't know how much of the 2m lane way cherry blossom trees will be in full bloom, but I'm planning on going to Seoul every weekend for the next 3 and even 4 weeks because there are other cherry blossom locations that I want to take pics at too.

Hope to see some of you at the festival,

Friday, March 20, 2009

Myeongdong Market and Underground Shopping Area in Chuncheon, South Korea

Early last week Julianne and I went for dinner. While walking to the restaurant we crossed a bridge that goes over the Soyang river (or a tributary of it, not sure) that runs next to our apartment (about 5 blocks away).

The drought in Gangwon province, and how it has lowered water levels, is really apparent here. The good news is that the rainy season is coming soon. I've pretty much started taking my umbrella with me now every day when I leave the house. The rule seems to be after May 1st you shouldn't leave home without it, but I've got a small one that fits in my bag easily, so I've just started a little earlier this year.

After dinner, Julianne and I walked over to the CGV movie theater to see what is playing. I took a pic of the movie times and listings . . .

We might go see "Watchmen" today cause it's supposed to rain and generally just be a blah day.

Yesterday (Saturday), we went to Myeongdong (Chuncheon, not the one in Seoul) and walked around the market.

I've never seen this woman's stall swarmed like this before, so I guess she must have been doing some kind of special sale . . .

Julianne decided to get one of the pillows that are square-shaped with a hollow space in the center. I told her that a lot of Korean teachers in public school teacher offices tend to use them for taking a nap at their desk. She liked that idea a lot . . . lol.

I decided to take more pics of the 'cutesy' pillow style that is common in Korea.

Further into the market we saw the stalls that have foreign products. Julianne noticed that they have Colgate toothpaste, but not the exact kind she likes to use. Still, if we can't make it Namdaemun's underground market in Seoul this might be a viable alternative.

Julianne also pointed out that this stall has "Swiss Miss" hot chocolate with marshmallows. We don't have this in Canada, at least in the region I'm from, so it was funny to see yet another difference between Canada and America pop up.

Apparently this stall is the place to go if you need a wig--cool.

Near the end of the market's main corridor of shops and stalls I saw this table full of Korean desserts.

In this picture I like and have tried every rice cake item, but don't eat them on a regular basis. The light brown ones in the bottom left corner have a really really freaking dry powder coating, and I always have to have something to drink with them.

Most of the Koreans I've seen eating rice cake desserts rant and rave about how delicious they are. I would say that some of them fit the meaning of the word delicious, but others are alright, or okay, and some are kind of like eating gelatinous-chewy-ricey-tasting-blobs-of-goo-with-a bland-dash-of-flavor . . . they're a bizillion times healthier for you than potato chips and other snacks from North America, I'm sure, but in terms of having something to satisfy the dessert-demon in most people from English cultures they're a little lacking . . .

Some of the rice cake desserts that are ball-shaped will have a sweet liquid inside them which is very cool, and tastes good. I was surprised by it though the first time I bit into one and the liquid went everywhere . . . lol.

These bad boys are found in dokkboki (a semi-sweet and very spicey rice-tube pasta kind of dish/snack that is a common street food here) and other Korean street foods. It's neat to see what they look like before they're covered with bright red pepper sauce.

I think it's awesome to see little fish stalls like this one where you can buy the entire fish--not the boring already cut up and prepared to cook style fish that we're used to back in North America.

I like the textures and colors of the different spices you can find in markets.

It always amazes me, and grosses me out a little, that these spices sit on the ground and cars drive by . . . I guess it's something that is normal for Korea, but I wish some kind of consideration would be given to not exposing things you ingest to exhaust and other foreign contaminants . . .

Julianne saw this massive bowl of . . . not sure what . . . and I said to her, "Yeah, my dad would freak if he saw how it's being prepared out here on the street," lol.

One thing that I know has been a big change in me after four years in Korea has been my notions of what is 'appropriate' in terms of food preparation and eating environments . . . when I first came here I'd freak out about a lot of things. I then realized that human beings have only been eating the way I'm familiar with back in Canada for about what? MAYBE half a century--so if we survived as long as we did without the modern hygiene culture we know today (and that's only in SOME parts of the world) then what am I worrying about so much . . . I'll now dip my spoon into the communal soup bowl at a dinner party without hesitation--when I first arrived I didn't, and looking back at that attitude now I laugh at myself for my stupidity.

This is a very common style of booth with herbs, vegetables, and other fresh produce for sale that you'll see in a Korean market place.

These little snack stalls are also pretty common. A lot of the food is really good, and when you're hungry and in a rush it's also very convenient.

Walking along a sidewalk lined with very old Korean women sitting on the ground with little piles of vegetables, spices, and other things for sale I saw the cabbage used for making kimchi, and many other Korean foods.

I remember when I first arrived in Korea in 2005 I was shocked to see eggs for sale sitting out on the sidewalk in the sun in extremely hot temperatures . . . I still don't like it, but told myself to think about what people did before they had fridges . . . I'll try to avoid eating at places that have the eggs they use to cook with out in the sun, but I imagine that there have been many times I've eaten food here prepared with ingredients that were stored in ways that would freak me out--but not knowing about that I ate it, thought it tasted good, and didn't get sick . . . so worrying about this kind of thing is just a waste of time in Korea.

Julianne just read this and pointed out that in many countries around the world things like fish and eggs are out in the sun in the markets and other places and people buy and eat them all the time. I think in Canada we somehow have been educated to believe that if eggs are not in a cold storage device with controlled temperatures, and fish are not already cut up and prepared and sitting on ice behind a glass and stainless steel encased unit, that some kind of deadly food experience is going to happen--which is so far from the truth it's not funny, but I think that's what I internalized growing up there . . .

Julianne still hasn't eaten any of the silk worm larvae--every time we walk by some I try to get her to try it. I still haven't convinced her, but I'm working on it. I'll try to video her eating it too if she'll let me--lol.

Julianne then suggested we check out the undeground market in Myeongdong. I'd never been in it so we headed down one of the many entrances that are all over the area.

I can't believe how big the underground shopping area is in Myeongdong--wow.

Fortune telling anyone?

This is actually one of the neater and more organized shoe stalls I've ever seen in Korea. Having worked in a Soft Moc store (middle to high end shoes) in Canada I'm always horrified when I see some of the shoe stalls with hundreds of pairs of shoes piled onto each other--I wonder how the clerk knows where everything is, and how to find sizes, etc.

Julianne and I both thought the crocodile mannequin was cool.

I think this area lies directly under the main intersection of downtown Myeongdong. I noticed that the hordes of middle school students Julianne and I saw when we first got downtown on Saturday around 12 noon seemed to be down in the underground shopping area hanging out and 'eye shopping' (Konglish for window shopping).

Walking by this children's clothing store I noticed something but it didn't register clearly in my mind. I stopped and went back to take a closer look . . .

Wow, I think the degree of 'talent' it takes to not only mispell one word, but combine and mispell two words at the same time deserves some kind of special award, lol.

It's pretty common in Korea to see really old machines and devices . . . I noticed this iron and had to take a closer look.

I think my grandmother had something that looked like this iron, wow.

In the next shop I saw this awsome pink fridge, and two very old model sewing machines.

I think we need to return to manufacturing things that aren't made with plastic parts and are not designed as disposable units that need to be replaced regularly . . . then we might actually have irons and sewing machines for a lot longer . . .

One thing I found very interesting in the underground shopping area was these screens in front of the tables. I wonder if they're new additions or have been there for a long time. My impression of Korean eating culture is that the privacy dividers and organization of eating social space is that a communal open space everything is visible rule dominates restaurants. This doesn't seem to apply here . . .

I can see Julianne and I coming back to the underground shopping area during the heat of the summer just to have somewhere different to eat in a cool environment.

Back up on the street I noticed the haze covering the mountains--I hate Chinese yellow dust, argh.

Hmmmmm, anybody reminded of an international chain of stores that sells hiking and outdoor gear and clothing that also has a "_____face" in its name with a very similar logo . . . there's also a very subtle degree of what I'm sure is unintentional irony in the meaning of the name of this store. Think beer, soju, and a certain demographic that often climbs mountains in Korea.

Before heading home Julianne and I went to Mdepartment store to pick up non-perishable foods for a just in case NK gets stupid scenario. We're also going to restock our supply of batteries for a flashlight, get some lighters and candles, and a few other odds and ends. It doesn't hurt to keep these things in the apartment anyway cause what if the power cut out or something like that.

Back at the apartment we had a little snack . . . yum.

Well, time to go order some food, and enjoy the rest of the weekend.