Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I do not have pictures from Japan yet; My camera battery died, I will get them soon from another camera and post them.

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

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