Monday, April 27, 2009

Is There Such a Thing as Creative Chocolate?

Since our trip to Gyeongju, things have been quiet for Marc and I. Things have been a little mundane for the past week or so, but I'll try to hit some high points.
I teach a class on Saturdays for Intermediate-Advanced speakers. There are usually 3 students but last weekend I only had 2. We decided to venture out to a traditional tea room; I truly wish I'd had my camera that day because we went to this picturesque small little village and the tea room was attached to an art gallery. I thought about taking pictures with my  phone, but I don't think it would have done it justice. I never liked hot tea in the US, but I'm really starting to like it here. I think it's because they don't use tea bags here--the tea is just different. They love sweet potatoes here, and served a giant plate of roasted sweet potatoes with the tea. They were smaller than I'm used to seeing, and yellow instead of orange on the inside. They're very sweet, and you just eat them like a carrot... kind of. I tried to find a picture online, but no such luck. 
We also went to another baseball game; however, this one sucked and we left in the middle of the 7th inning (score was already 13-4) and went to E-Mart (think SuperTarget, only better). Here I bought some hair dye and I'm finally back to my natural dark brunette. It might be slightly darker, but it looks good--apparently everyone thinks so. And now I guess I also look Korean from the back :) Unfortunately I screwed up and somehow missed a perfectly square patch of hair on the side of my head, so for a week I had to wear my hair pinned back to cover it up until I could get more hair dye. I finally got more hair dye and when I started mixing the dye I got ahead of myself and mixed the "protective serum" into the developer cream instead of the hair color. Sigh. Fortunately my husband loves me and he ran out to a nearby convenience store and bought MORE hair dye and now my hair is perfect! I haven't taken any pictures of it yet, but I will soon, I promise!
Other than that, we've just been working, sleeping, and watching Lost. Marc has not seen the first 4 seasons, but he's become addicted while watching the current season with me so he downloaded all the episodes. He (We) watched the entire first season in TWO days! We didn't really do anything on Sunday so he started watching it around 10 or 11am, and I think he stopped watching it around 1am. (And you wonder why we're so tired?) 
Here are some photos from the last couple of weeks: 
Here we are at the SeaHouse, which is supposed to be an "amazing" seafood buffet. However, at a price of about $25 per person, it was not "amazing". In fact, it was the opposite of "amazing". 
Sweet, baby Elliot.
This is not a red light district. It is, however, a district with a lot of lights.
What's that in the distance? Is that a giant "E" for E-Mart (or E-Mah-tuh) that I see?? It is, it is!
We also like to visit Bennigan's here about once a week; they have fantastic cheese fries and and a sandwich called the Monte Cristo. Mmmmm.
And there you have our lives in a nutshell. Au revoir!

Mmm, I Love Me Some Creative Juices!

It's been way too long since my last update--I know, I'm terrible at this. I've been so busy and tired and I like to spend time on my updates. Let's just call it... creative absence. Yeah, that's it. 
I probably will make multiple posts to catch you up to speed, to avoid one really really really incredibly loooong post. First things first, I believe last time I posted I said I would talk about our trip to Gyeongju, the first touristy thing that we've done in South Korea. 
Gyeongju is one of the oldest cities (maybe the oldest?) in SK. However, pretty much everything has been rebuilt or reconstructed due to pillaging and war. It's very touristy, lots of temples and statues and things like that. It takes about an hour to get there by bus, so Marc and I had planned on leaving around 8am to get there; unfortunately, we're both tired and lazy so we didn't leave to go to the bus station until 9:30. By the time we got to the station, bought tickets, and made the trip to Gyeongju, it was noon. Not terrible, but not great.
There was a tourist center just outside the bus station, so we ventured in and found an English map. The girl behind the desk was very helpful and told us where the main attractions were, as well as the bus lines to take us there. Hooray! So our first stop turned out to be Temple Bulguksa, one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Korea; we knew we should take the #10 or 11 bus, but where to stop? We decided just to look for the giant temple. Surely we couldn't miss it, right?
When we first got on the bus, there were maybe 5 people on it. Two stops later, it was completely FULL--as in, my elbow in some Korean guy's crotch for 30 minutes with him staring down my shirt. (I'm not sure Marc ever noticed that; this might be his first time hearing about it. Oopsie :) ). Anyway, we figured it would probably be best to just get off the bus when everyone else did because there was no way all those people were on the bus just for fun. Our plan worked, and we made it to the temple! Well, we made it to the bottom of the hill that we needed to climb to get to the temple. But whatever, we made it! 
I didn't get any pictures at the bottom of the hill, but I did at the top. I'm pretty sure I climbed a small mountain (at least my thighs were sure--holy moly). 
The view was pretty awesome; one of these days I'm going to take photos of the mountains around Daegu. I'm not used to living in a city with huge mountains like, right THERE. I asked some of my students if people live in the mountains here. They gave me a resounding, "Um, no. Hahahaha." I think they're lying though. People have to live in the mountains; what's the point of having mountains if there aren't mountain people to be afraid of? 
So we got to the top of our massive (small) mountain (hill), and there was a bridge. With fish in the water. Photo op!
Next there was a strange walkway with strange men in it. Ooh, la la. I like the guy with the snake-dragon-thing. Serpent?
Here are some people at the local watering hole. And a sexy foreign dude. Double ooh, la la!
And here it is, the great Temple Bul-guk-sa!! BEHOLD! Oh, and Sexy Foreign Dude again.
After walking around alot, we decided to move on the next attraction. There was a hiking trail we could take for 2.2km (about a mile?), or a bus. I demanded the bus because I was hot, sweaty, and had a sinking feeling the trail was completely uphill.
AND I WAS RIGHT! You know those movies that show people driving on scary curvy roads with sharp drop-offs if you make one wrong move? Yeah, that was what we took a bus on. Oi vey, uphill was an understatement for what this was---more like CURVY VERTICAL ROAD OF DEATH. I'm so glad we took the bus, with my luck I would have tripped, started rolling the hill and that would be it. No more Christina. I could hear the news headline already--"Female Foreigner Takes the Bul-guk-sa Plunge After Tripping Over a... Pebble?" 
So we made it to our next attraction, Seokguram Grotto. Long walking trail, followed by 98759827459872 stone steps WITH NO RAILING to walk up to the grotto. It's pretty neat, a giant Buddha carved out of granite. 
I hijacked this picture from Wikipedia because we weren't allowed to take photos inside the grotto.
And here are some photos that I did take. 
When you leave the grotto, there's a place to write messages and I guess people just leave them for others to read. Here are some that I thought were worthy of my camera.
By the time we finished at Seokguram Grotto, it was too late to visit anything else. We were exhausted anyway, after all the walking and sweating and touristy-ness. We plan to visit again to see more sites. I'm particularly excited about this: 
Cheomseongdae is an astronomical observatory in GyeongjuSouth Korea. Cheomseongdae means star-gazing tower in Korean. Cheomseongdae is the oldest surviving observatories in East Asia, and one of the oldest scientific installations on Earth. It dates to the 7th century to the time of kingdom of Silla, which had its capital in Gyeongju.
Ah, so that was Gyeongju in a nutshell. Well, half of it anyway. Okay, maybe one-third. But still! Stay tuned for more updates from your favorite waegookin (Korean for foreigner) blogger!
Monday, April 13, 2009

You've Seen One, You've Seen Them All

I'm in Starbucks trying to do some lesson planning for my classes tomorrow--however, I've been much more successful at checking Facebook and reading reviews on a book I just finished (Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult). 
People in the US or wherever might make fun of Starbucks because every store is so cookie-cutter, but let me tell you--whoever decided that was a good thing was extremely smart. When I worked at Starbucks, I learned during my training that Starbucks' goal is to make their stores the "third place". Basically, every person spends the majority of their time at home, work/school, and that elusive "third place"; Starbucks wants to be that place, a place you can relax away from the hustle and bustle of home and work. 
Well, I've discovered another wonderful thing about the cookie-cutter store--even when I'm thousands of miles from home, I can come to Starbucks and be back in Birmingham. The music, the drinks, the colors, the furniture--it's all the same. I must say, their food is much better than what I've had in Birmingham. Now I'm also listening online to Live 100.5, and I almost think I'm not in Korea (except when I look up and realize I'm surrounded by Koreans. But, you know, that's just a minor detail.). The stores here are also HUGE. I just counted about 45 tables, and there are more in the front of the store that I can't see. Luckily, I have to walk about 20 minutes to get to Starbucks, so don't worry, I'm not spending all my money on coffee :) 
Later, gators.
Sunday, April 12, 2009

Can I Ask You a Personal Question?

Or better yet... 
Student A: Can I ask personal kestion? 
Me: Sure.
Student A: Have you tried diet? 
Student B: **Gasp!**
Me: Eh? (and thinking, "Crap, here it comes...")
Student A: Have you tried diet? I think you are so fat and must be unhealthy. You should eat Korean food.
Student B: **GASP!!**
Me: I eat Korean food.
Student A: How many hamburger you eat in week?
Me: 1 or 2.
Student A: Ah. You try Korean diet. Much healthy than hamburger.
Because, you know, eating hamburgers makes people fat. Nothing else. Just hamburgers. I'm aware that I'm overweight. I don't need a woman who probably wears about a size 2 giving me diet tips. (Speaking of which, I've already lost 2 pants sizes since coming to Korea. Woohoo!)
I wanted to tell this student that her question was very inappropriate and if she asked that to people when she traveled she should be prepared for a good punch in the face, but I didn't. I see her once a week in my Saturday class, and it's just not worth the hassle. Especially since she's like 45 and probably won't change her ways anytime soon. 
Have I mentioned that most clothing stores here don't carry anything above a size MEDIUM? I went into Gap with Marc to find a belt for him and noticed their ladies clothes only go up to size 8. EIGHT. 
End rant.
Marc and I went to a touristy place today. I'll post pictures later, but right now it's bedtime. Goodnight!
Monday, April 06, 2009

Spring is HERE!!!

Spring is FINALLY here! I thought winter would never end---whew. I was quite tired of the freezing mornings and cold afternoons. Marc and I had started taking taxis everywhere, and since the base fare just jumped to W2200 (about $1.65 as of today) it was getting a tad expensive. However, yesterday and today were BEAUTIFUL, so here's hoping it stays like this :)
Marc and I went to a baseball game yesterday--go Samsung Lions! Teams here are not associated with cities, but with companies, even though the teams are from specific cities--like the Samsung Lions are from Daegu. But they're not the Daegu Lions. They're the Samsung Lions. Okay, enough of that. I have pictures!
Here we are waiting for the subway to take us to the stadium. It's only crowded because this is the transfer station. Usually there are not that many people waiting for the subway. 
As you can see, Marc is brimming with excitement. This is Marc's excited face. He's super-excited about going to the baseball game. I'm just excited to be going somewhere.
Now we're outside the stadium. Of course, lots of vendors selling all kinds of Korean yummies--dried fish, flattened squid, fried chicken. Mmm nom nom nom. We're so going to get hot dogs and beer! We can eat dried peanut butter squid any day of the week--it's hot dog time!
Wait, this is Korea. Apparently you only get hot dogs and beer at American baseball games. So we settled on water and fried chicken. And then ice cream. Here I am after realizing you can't get real hot dogs at Korean baseball games. 
That's my fake smile. I'm actually completely angry and ready to throw down some Koreans. Me Hulk! Hulk Angry! **Oooh, Baseball!**
Okay, so it was a pretty warm day. The sun was beating down on us, and I even got a little sunburned. I think this is a good time to mention that Koreans are not big on sunglasses. They prefer hats. Not just any hats, though. No, they must wear special edition Baseball Visors! As you can see in the picture below, they can be purchased at the baseball game and they are the perfect unisex gift! They even come in different colors--Dorothy Blue, and Sandy Tan!
Also very stylish in Korea this time of year is the Newspaper Hat. It's a hat that looks like a newspaper that's been folded into a hat! You can also opt to wear it casually laid across the top of your head, as the young couple pictured below has chosen to pair with their dressy baseball-day attire of a suit for him and a dress with heels for her.
Finally, we have the traditional Baseball Hat. Go Red Sox!
All in all, it was a good day. The Samsung Lions beat the LG Twins 5-3, and Marc and I got out and had some fun. 
Oh, and we decided next time we're getting lunch on the way to the game at this place: 
I know, I found Subway! I'm so excited! Okay, I'm out.

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