Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Some pictures from Busan- Copy and past website
Dec 25 Christmas- Merry Christmas Everyone
A little known fact about Koreans; they have a different age system than us who live in the United States of America. When they are born they are one year old. They consider birth to be at time of conception. So the whole time the baby is in the womb it is counted as its first year of life. For example, the drinking age in South Korea is 19, yet in American life years that would actually be 18. It is quite an interesting aspect of Korean life and Koreans make sure to make a joke about it when you talk to them about age. On Christmas Eve I went down to Suwon Yuk (which is the Korean word for station) and got my train pass for Busan, to eventually head to Japan by ferry the day after Christmas. After getting my train pass I went out to dinner. Around Suwon Yuk; Suwon Yuk has a vibrant night life just about every night of the week with many young University aged kids. I was just walking around checking out the restaurants and enjoying the atmosphere.
After walking around for around an hour a lady that works and I am guessing owns the restaurant (most are family owned) came to the door and grabbed my arm with a huge smile on her face and welcomed me in. She pointed to the menu (in Korea) with another huge smile on her face and I was sold on whatever she was pointing to on the menu. At that point it could have been Rudolph himself on the menu and I was eating it. This lady really took care of me the whole time I was there and because of that I will go back often. And because the food was absolutely amazing, the restaurant itself was barbeque; with a grill in the middle of each table to cook your food right in front of you. Every step of the way this lady helped me out. The meal turned out excellent. It was a grilled beef, with every type of spice you could imagine, raw cherrystones, crab, salad, a nice warm tea, a nicer colder beer, and many vegetables. The meal was absolutely delicious, for a total of $12. Eating out in Korea is very cheap; this meal is more of an expensive meal in Korea and well worth it. The food itself was $9, the beer $3. Beer is not cheap here, it is often more expensive here then in the USA. You can not get any good prices in the grocery store, and when you go out to a bar, it gets high priced; especially in a Western Style bar. The funniest thing to see is a Budweiser at 6,000 won and BUD ICE at 9,000 Won; someone is asleep at the wheel in this pricing, who the hell drinks BUD ICE, and if they do they are not paying 9,000 for one of them. Christmas Eve and Christmas in Korea are nothing like that back home in the States. Most of my kids had really no clue what they were doing on Christmas or why we celebrate it. The bars were packed Christmas Eve, it seemed everyone went out and family get togethers were not too common. This also seemed common place on Christmas. On Christmas it was raining so it cancelled my trip to Seoul and Everland. Which is a big amusement park and they were having a Christmas party (which I was warned not to go to because it was going to be so crowded. Since every Asian I work with is in love with Michael Jackson I started calling the amusement park Everland Ranch and they got a real kick out of it because it is filled with nothing but kids. Christmas brought a lot of thinking about home, what everyone was doing, a few phone calls back home and planning for the adventure of the next day which would be Japan. My friend who I worked with in Aspen and who is currently in S. Korea teaching told me when we meet up a few weeks ago that being a USA citizen in Korea that everything you do has the potential to be an adventure. On Christmas night this was exactly the case. Around 9Pm I went out to a jazz bar, which had a gigantic sign on the outside which read “live music” with a huge hanging guitar next to it. I saw this place other nights and it looked like a fun place, so I ventured in. the place was absolutely dead, there was one other person in there and that turned out to be the singer. There was no bartender in sight. My perfection of the Korean language got me far. I know three words in Korean. (Please, thank you, and beer and you would be surprised how far these three sayings get you. Everyone likes please and thanks you, and everyone loves beer) the singer ended up grabbing me a beer, then the bartender showed up about 20 minutes later who knew some English but could not put a sentence together. I asked them about music, by just saying the word music, the singer then handed me a book with American songs. I picked out three for him to sing. (Or so I thought) The next thing I know he grabs my hand and leads me up to the stage, the bartender follows. We are the only three in the place so there was not much pressure and we started singing the song with the lead singer playing the piano also, I had a mic (I think Beetles rock band has really helped me out, or maybe it was the Whiskey they were gunning down my throat, Asians love their whiskey) We ended up singing about ten songs and it is funny because the lead singer could only read a words once in a while from the American songs so it would go quiet for a while leaving me only to sing. We then sat down and really just laughed for another hour with out any fluent conversation because of the language barrier, we sang some more and then I went home around midnight to get rest before my trip early the next morning. The night was really fun and I wish I could’ve stayed out later but I could not because of my trip the next morning. This was one of the adventures my friend has been telling me about that has the potential to appear as being a foreigner in South Korea.
Sunday Dec 27- Hiroshima, Japan
The morning after Christmas I took the train down to Busan and met up with my friend John who I teach with. Busan is a beautiful port/beach city in the southeast of Busan. It reminds me a lot of Cabo San Lucas Mexico in the natural beauty of the area; Mountains, beaches, and ocean surrounding the whole city. That is where the comparison stops. I did not stay at night but I bet it is a fun place to be. There is an enormous fish market in Busan, I can’t stress enormous enough, it is the biggest one in Korea and it goes on forever. I do not know the exact size, but it was a sight to see. There were outdoor fish markets and an indoor one. We walked around and it was amazing how many different types there were. I took some pictures and video to see. They have a type of Flounder over here which was interesting, I do not know what they call it but it looks exactly like flounder, just has more sports on top and it is a little lighter in color. We went to a restaurant in a fish market; it was upstairs with beautiful views of the ocean and a massive bridge in the background which was all surrounded by mountains. At the restaurant it was nothing but raw fish ( I tried everything once) some of the raw fish was disgusting, some was really good. The oysters were not that good and I love oysters so I was disappointed. They basically give you a big plate with many different types of raw fish on it. Octopus was really good, which I was pleasantly surprised. After all the raw fish on a platter came they brought us fish soup. This soup had the whole carcass of the fish in the soup which made it look very interesting. The broth of the soup was really good; however, the meat was very small, making the soup as a whole disappointing. After walking around the markets for a while we boarded out ferry destined for Japan. This was an adventure to say the least. We got second class tickets. Which meant we slept on mats in a room that sleeps ten people, the mats were very thin and very uncomfortable; sleep was not going to be a luxury we were going to have on this ride to Japan. When on the boat I spent most of my time outside on the deck, which was very nice and relaxing. It was warm enough to be comfortable with a jacket on, which was nice to have. The whole ride you could see many boats off the horizon and Japans coastline. It was nice just to be out on the ocean in a boat and enjoying the peacefulness of the sea. It is the Sea of Japan, but you will never hear a Korean call it the Sea of Japan. There still is some animosity toward the Japanese for overtaking the Koreans. Shimonoseki, Japan is where the ferry arrived. We left at 8:00 pm and arrived around 7:00am. (It was a long night, not really looking forward to the ride back.) When we were pulling into port a couple was taking a picture and I realized I was in the picture, so I moved back and offered to take a picture of the couple; yet, the man wanted me to be in the picture with his girlfriend, it was quite amusing. I have noticed in the short time in Japan that they will more openly come up to and talk to an American then a Korean would. In Korea you can catch them staring in amazement of an American, in Japan they will come right up to you and talk to you in a real cheerful manner. Also a funny difference from when I was in Japan a few years ago was that the Japanese citizens would tell me that they loved USA citizens but did not like Bush. Now they like Obama and still look positively at Americans. So Obama is doing one thing right I guess (the Japanese like him) We arrived in Japan and headed toward the rail station and the bullet train. I never went on the fast bullet train when I was in Japan a few years ago, just the regular train, and boy is it fast. The words out of my mouth when I heard the train was “Holy shit, look at that” to my friend and literally in the time I said that the train passed us and was out of site. It was fast, it was long, and it was loud when it went by (it shakes the whole station). The bullet train was really cool, seeing that gave us both some much needed energy for the day. Our train came and we were headed to Hiroshima, it took about an hour and a half, and we both slept the whole way; waking up about four minutes before our stop. We arrived in Hiroshima, took a 15 minute tram ride to the site where the A Bomb was dropped. Right outside of the stop was the A Bomb dome, it was a truly a magnificent site. This was one of the few buildings that survived the A bomb and has been turned into a monument, and a very moving monument. I have now seen the Vietnam War memorial in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the Korean War Memorial in Seoul, and now the A Bomb memorial. It is really cool to of seen all three of these. I believe the Vietnam memorial is the most emotional of the three because of the tactics used on both sides of the war and for the lack of progress that war created. The ABomb building and museum was moving, but it made progress in the war and after the second dropping of the bomb ended the war. You can argue that there were other factors; but if you see this museum and study the war you realize that the dropping of these bombs ended the war, kept the Soviet Union from gaining power and made the United States of America into a super power. The bombs hit August 6th, 1945 at 8;15 am; they have watches that literally froze in time when the bomb went off. This was a real moving display in the museum. There were many other objects dedicated to the war; the watch was my favorite item in the whole museum. The disgusting part of the museum was the effect the radiation had on the citizens after the bomb was dropped. It was gross and there were pictures displaying the effects of this bomb. (Just like in the Vietnam war with agent orange) They also had a 3D map of the city before the bomb and one after the bomb was dropped and the city was absolutely destroyed. It really showed the power of the A bomb and displayed the after affects of the bomb on the city. The last reason (of many they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima was that they had no POW camps in the city, and another important factor was that they had never attacked Hiroshima in the war and they wanted to display the power of the A Bomb and its after affects. Because of this bombing Japan is absolutely terrified of war, they have a vision called 2020; in which they intend to rid the world of nuclear warfare by 2020 (they also love President Obama because of his world peace ideas.) After leaving the A Bomb museum we decided to spend a few days in Hiroshima, to be staying in the same city that we dropped the A Bomb in was a truly weird feeling. To be in such a historical city, (140,000 people died because of the bomb) which changed the last 65 years of the world; which is essentially what this bomb did, after going to the museum you can really see what impact the bomb had on the world, giving many reason why countries today are so powerful Because of this one bomb. The USA especially, it really made us into the leader of the world. We got to Hiroshima Sunday, so at night the city itself was really slow. As the same Monday night, Sunday night we went to a tiny whole in the wall bar; had a drink then left, as we were leaving the lady charged us five dollars just to sit on a barstool, this took the wind out of our sails and we went back to the hotel for the night for some more sightseeing the next day. On Monday we went to a castle, which was not to interesting, except for the fact when you got to the top of it, the castle overlooked the whole city; this gave an amazing view. One of the signature dishes in Hiroshima is a pancake filled pizza; this idea seems very well except the one restaurant we went to it was mostly lettuce filled, it was still good to eat but not this great thing that I had expected.
Tuesday Dec 29- We are leaving Hiroshima and headed back towards the ferry. I was not looking forward to this ferry ride. The second class rooms that we got are not fun. There is a big room, sleeps about ten and you sleep on mats. They are not comfortable, but since it was only one night we decided it was worth the price when we bought them when we were leaving Busan the week before. We were wrong; we also did not realize we would be sleeping on mats. It was around 9PM and I was bored laying on my mat after walking around outside for a while to get some fresh air and look at the ocean. So I went up to the bar were there was a group of about 20 Middle aged Koreans singing and having a blast. So I sat in the back and watched them. (Then it happened) The potential of an adventure every time an American goes out in S. Korea. A Korean noticed me sitting in the back watching them, I got invited to join the group, given free drinks and Soju and there was a party brewing out of nowhere. Koreans absolutely love Americans; I can not say it enough. They love us because of our parents and grandparents generation. Our grandparents because of World War 2, and our parents generation because of the Korean War; even though the Korean War has not officially ended, the South Koreans could not be more thankful to what the Americans have done for this country. It is truly a special thing to see, you get a truly great respect of the United States military and the positive outcomes it can produce (which is really tough to see these days) After getting to sit with a bunch of Koreans for a while and eventually a huge group dancing episode I went to bed, to sleep on a mat.
WED December 30, 2009
I made it back to Suwon, South Korea, very happy with my trip to Japan, the awful ferry and many train rides. I am all rested up as I took a much needed nap and look forward to New Years. Happy New Years everyone, I might not be headed up to Seoul any more because of the travel and might just stay in Suwon. But, you never know. I will update New Years festivities next time I write.
Have a great Holiday Patrick
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I will have better picture later, It was my first time traveling around so I did not take many pictures, because I wanted to experience Seoul without taking pictures on my first visit.
Tuesday Dec 22, 2009 7:00PM Korean Time, 5:00 AM eastern time zone.
I finally got my computer back to working again. My computer cord snapped so I could not charge my battery. Dell is not a major computer company in South Korea, Apple, HP, and Sony are among the major companies which most will be able to identify with. Anyways, it was difficult not being able to have a computer for the first week or so moving into a country as foreign as South Korea. Sorry I have not been able to update everyone as much as I would of liked. I will update everything from the last time I wrote. I have traveled to Seoul, the Korean War Memorial, around Suwon, and back into Seoul. Last Wednesday a bunch of us at the Korea Herald School went out to dinner. There were six of us. One girl did not speak any English, so she seemed bored throughout the whole time and left early. (It was funny because I tried including her in the conversation by asking another Korean speaker to ask her questions, then the vice president of the school decided to tell everyone that I liked her, I think everyone at the school likes her) I started to ask two of the Korean teachers (who are fluent in English) about Korea. My biggest question was about the bars. Bars in South Korea are known as hofs, and they are very different then American style bars, or you could say western style bars. Korean traditional bars (hofs) do not have an actual bar in them; it is basically a group of tables. So this makes it tough to go out and meet other people while going out. Koreans go out in groups and tend to stay with that group throughout the whole night, rarely talking to other groups. I guess you could picture this as tables at a restaurant, Koreans stay at the same table all night long. Koreans, as opposed to Americans do not interact with other people at the bars; this caught me by major surprise, but it did not matter too much because of the language barrier. Koreans say that they are group minded people, which is why they have theses tables for a group to enjoy. Yet, these tables; individualize each group. So they go out in groups but the groups themselves are in a sense individuals, which in my mind takes away the fact that they think they are group minded people. Also, the little of the western style bars in Suwon are for the most part empty. Except for a bar called Now Bar, which is a foreigner hang out; this bar is in a different part of Suwon that I have not gone to yet. Suwon is a pretty big city, it has a little over 1 million citizens.
Thursday Dec 17- I have been here exactly one week, and it is amazing all the thoughts that have gone through my head, and thee smells. Some are pleasant with all the restaurants and some are absolutely disgusting. Most of my thoughts are still when the hell am I leaving. (Which is common for a while) I started teaching myself some Korean tonight, it is tough because the alphabet is completely different, which is going to make vocabulary really difficult. Every Thursday night I can hear the karaoke room downstairs, (there is one on the second floor of the apartment complex.) And the walls are razor thin. The karaoke room is pronounced Norebang in Korean. The norebang in my apartment, since I am in the red light district is filled with business men and hookers. I am told these rooms are very expensive. You might get an idea of the area I live in is a run down place. The apartments are not to nice, but it in no way is run down. It is however interesting, with love motels, massage places and the norebang all close neighbors to me. And of course the school is located within all this. ( It is about a 30 second walk to school.)
Thursday night we went out to dinner. Two Korean teachers, an American teacher and I. We went to TGI FRIDAYS, which is right down the street, which is nice; there is also an Outback Steakhouse down the street. Both are really expensive especially compared to Korean food, which you can get a good meal for 6,000 Won ($6) we all got Cheeseburgers, which are around 13,000 won. And we all got raw Cheeseburgers. We all ate half of the burger, and then I asked if anyone else’s was raw. Everyone had the same response. John from Cleveland ate his whole burger raw (that is how exciting it is to have a Cheeseburger in South Korea.) We sent ours back and they cooked them and gave us free fries.
Saturday Dec 19- Seoul
Seoul is a major city, it has ten million people and it is absolutely huge. I can not describe how big it is. Transportation is dirt cheap in Korea. It cost 1700 won to take a bus into Seoul. A little less then$1.70) the subway is also very cheap. As we walked into the city of Seoul my friend Mark (from London) and I got stopped and was asked to do an interview for a television station. They were asking us about our hometown and every question you could think of about Asia and our feelings on it. It was quite entertaining. The whole day was spent walking through Seoul, (which seems you could do for days) we went to about four districts of Seoul. Had lunch in Itaewon, which is where the USA military base is located and has a lot of influence on the area. We met up with a lot of US soldiers and played pool and hung out with them for a while. After spending time there, there was more walking around Seoul. Around 8:00 Pm, we walked into a bar called rainbow; which is straight from the 60’s. It is a big reggae bar, and is very very different. There were no tables, as you sat on the floor, which was located in the basement and there was a jazz band playing. I felt like I went back 4 decades. They did however play a bunch of live Christmas music which was pretty cool. After spending two hours there, we walked around and enjoyed the bustling nightlife just by walking on the streets. Seoul is a very busy place. It is amazing how close the buildings are to each other and how high they go. We made it back to Suwon around midnight.
Sunday Dec 20.
On Sunday we went to visit the Korean War Museum, which is a very special place. The memorial is amazing in sight, and all the planes, tanks and guns that are around the facilities are absolutely amazing. We got there late so we only spent a few hours there, but I will definitely head back there. They had a major section obviously devoted to the Korean War, but they also had every Korean War in history in the museum. It was a moving memorial, with the huge statues of soldiers fighting and the peace memorial in between the soldiers. Because of this war the economy in South Korea was crippled, which only gained its independence from Japan after World War Two. After the cease of fighting (the war officially still goes on today, no peace treaty was ever signed) South Korea’s economy all but died, and the North’s economy was flourishing. That did not last long, the south turned their economy around which is growing at an amazing pace now (one of the Asian Tigers) and the North has spiraled out of control, with basically no infrastructure in the North. The North is really in a bad place right now. South Korea currently is between the old traditional values and current modern day values of a global economy and it is very interesting to see the growth before your eyes. There are literally small family restaurants everywhere. There might be 50 on my street. They are priced very low and in high volume. They are starting to make the turn to the western philosophy, with fewer, higher prices restaurants but it is more of a vision then a reality right now. There is also an outdoor fruit/vegetable/live fish market within a five minute walking distance from here. I buy fruit from there and it is absolutely amazing. The bananas, (which I never ate at home) strawberries, and oranges are awesome. They have so much flavor in them. “Domchim” is the name of the game the kids play on the teachers, I wrote about it earlier, I am not sure if I spelt it right earlier. The kids get a kick out of the game and the teacher gets really embarrassed. Another funny thing is no dryers. Apartments in South Korea for the most part do no have dryers. Yet we have awesome radiant heated floors which dry the cloths very well. So one day a week I crank the heat up on the floor and dry my clothes. It is not the ideal situation, but it is about adjusting to life in a developing country.
Christmas time is coming, and we have a party dinner tomorrow night, and then everyone is going somewhere on Christmas Eve or Christmas. I will probably head into Seoul on Christmas. Next week is school vacation week, I am most likely heading to Japan, to see a few things I did not see when I was there a few years ago Also a trip to the DMZ could be organized, I will definitely go back to the Korea War memorial again soon, if not on this break .Basically the weekends entail going to bed early Friday, waking up early Saturday, traveling, and try to go to bed early Saturday and wake up Sunday and travel again. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a great Holiday! I will write soon and I will have better pictures posted. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Saturday Dec 12 3:00Pm
This is my second day in
Thursday night when I first arrived in
Friday Dec 11
I woke up in the morning being much more comfortable with my new surroundings and excited to go to work. One of the teacher’s John has been really helpful to me, he gave me breakfast, walked me to the school and has shown me around the city during our break at school. He is a really nice kid who I believe we will be hanging out a lot. He is from
Sat- I woke up early and went out to the city and walked around. It is a busy city, mixed with everything. I went into a Korean restaurant and embarrassed myself trying to use chopsticks, yet the food was good. I sat right next to the workers, so everytime they looked away I used a spoon to eat my food, which was given to me for the soup. So I have to learn how to use chopsticks correctly. The smells on the street are plentiful, some are good, some are awful, and you can always tell when a bakery is near, they smell so good. Anyways, I am on my way to meet up with a friend from aspen,
Sunday, December 13-
Last night My friend and I went to the Suwon Station where all the college aged kids hang out, and it was a sight to be scene. Jumping Joe has been telling me that the Koreans are the Irish of the Asian world, and they are. I have never seen so many people being carried out of bars or just down the streets in my life. It was quite entertaining. The station district is pretty cool. Everyone gets caught staring at two Americans walking down the street. The funniest part is the bartenders. They will sit and listen to two English speaking people all night, in order to advance their English speaking ability. We had two bartenders stare at us for about an hour, then they tried speaking English with us. This one bartender was an English Lit major at her college, and she could barely put a sentence together, which is pretty ironic. Yet, she could write anything down in English and understand it. The street food is absolutely amazing, whether it was chicken kabobs or pancake filled with cinnamon sugar, which I think I could live off. The whole streets are lit up with neon lights, which creates quite a scene. Next Friday I will bring my camera and take a video of it. I am going to go down to the station today and walk around, I will bring my camera with me and I will post pictures a little later today. Hope everyone is doing good!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Goodbye United States,