Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick hits: Goals and some links

  • I never did mention anything about my birthday and that should probably get taken care of. I turned 26 last week. Maybe coming into school wouldn't appear on everyone's list of things to do on a birthday, but it did feel good to teach. [Edit: Special thanks for Mi-ra and Yu-jin for the surprise birthday dinner! They said we could have whatever I wanted, so we had delicious rotisserie duck with all the trimmings and it was excellent. Those two were dedicated students in the previous teacher's class and although the class hasn't started again, they do make every effort to study English and help me with my Korean. They rock.
  • Though nothing got mentioned, the Cheorwon farewell dinner became half farewell dinner and half birthday party, so that made for a cool surprise. Lisha and the girls get special thanks here for the cake and dessert. Some students gave me presents too and I'm damned thankful for that. Thanks, everyone!   
  • The second part of "A year on the frontier" will arrive soon. It's probably going to be a long article and I don't want to rush it.
  • The second year of teaching's underway and it's off to a good start.
  • Goals for next year: 
    • Post something here more than once a week. Write more about teaching.
    • See as much of Korea and the Eastern hemisphere as possible
      • See Busan, Daegu, and get back to the east coast
    • Do more writing activities with the students
    • Get better at managing the middle school classroom
    • Take a cross-country train ride
      • I'm cheating a bit here because this will happen over the Chuseok holiday.

All's still all right: Storms and new people

Typhoon Bolaven came and went here with nothing more heavier than usual rains and winds. Nothing much happened that we hadn't seen before. While the rest of the country didn't fare quite so well, the storm didn't hit as hard as predicted. Nonetheless, we've another storm coming, Typhoon Temblin. It's set to cross across the peninsula on a diagonal, so Cheorwon's likely to get even more crummy weather. Matt shot a message out earlier that said we might have to cancel our welcome dinner if the conditions get bad, so we'll have to see what happens. Let's hope that it's just another round of rain for us here. 

I'm getting tired of this rain because the summer's for sunny days where I'm from. People had mentioned Korea's rainy season before, but I didn't think it would go on for this long. Apparently I'm not alone in this one because the Korea Joongang Daily ran this article about our great wet and sticky August. It wasn't like this at this time last year. We hardly saw much rain and instead got plenty of heat instead. 

But enough about the weather, because as interesting is that is, we've had some changes in the Cheorwon crew recently. Gabe, Pete, Carrie, and Johanna have left the country and Claire's transferred to Chuncheon. It's been nothing but a pleasure getting to know them while they were here. They'll be missed. Everyone left on great terms; all had had fun with teaching but had decided that it was time to carry on with other adventures. I can personally attest that the kids loved Peter for his bobbing height and goofy good humor. Gabe did well too; their former 6th graders have become my 1st grade middle schoolers and they've done well thus far. Farewell everyone--and I hope to see you all soon! 

New arrivals Dave and Alexis arrived yesterday and assumed their teaching duties already. Dave's from the States and Alexis hails from Canada. Me and Kirsten took them out for dak galbi and beers last night; they dove into the chicken and we talked for hours. Dave even had the verbal dexterity to keep Kirsten from monopolizing the conversation with her laments that we didn't have any more UK people here anymore. They were both a bit wary of living in this small town but they seem fine with it now. I too had worried about living in the country. It's natural, but I think they're going to do just fine here. Cheers!

Tropical Storm Temblin

Monday, August 27, 2012

Backtracks: A spring hail storm

Here comes some more inclement weather to complement the typhoon:

This happened back in the spring. I was just about to leave school when a thunderstorm broke out and let loose a torrent of rain and hail in Cheorwon. Some of the teachers and staff came out to watch the hail fall because they'd never seen anything like it before.

The rain and hail lasted for about 20 minutes before it went away.

All's okay on the northern front for now

[Update 2: it's 6:55am and there's no sign of rain yet. How'd the rest of the country fare? Will the schools reinstate classes after all? Is that even possible?]

[Update: It's 11:25pm here and the weather's calm. Is it the calm before the storm? We'll have to far so good]

While Tropical Storm Isaac is making its way toward the Gulf region of the USA, Typoon Bolaven's on the way up the East China sea and will go past western South Korea before landing in North Korea. You can see the map of the typhoon's progress here. Everyone's expecting heavy winds and rains here in Cheorwon. Some of my students have made dire predictions about people dying, but the Korean teachers seem largely nonchalant about the coming storm. "It's no big problem," says my co-teacher Mr. Choi. Both my two schools and Kirsten's two schools have cancelled classes for the students tomorrow. Dong Song's off as well. Rochelle mentioned that Seoul's getting an off day as well, but for all the closings and coming crummy weather, we and our fellow teachers still have to come in. Getting to school tomorrow should be interesting if I can't get a ride. We'll see how that one goes; I would've had 5 classes tomorrow, so I welcome the break from a busy day and can now concentrate on planning further ahead.

All's fine 'round the DMZ for now, as it's around 8 o'clock at night here and it's like most other summer nights--warm and humid with clouds overhead. I made a quick run to the grocery store on the way home to buy food and water. People didn't look like they were in any hurry. The store's stock of 6-packs of 2-liter water jugs had taken a hit though, so perhaps people are worried about the coming rains. We've already had plenty of torrential downpours here anyway, so a few more rainstorms probably won't make any difference. The rainy season started at the end of June and has yet to stop. We may get a half or full day of sunny weather, but the clouds and the rain always come back.

This link has more information. Here's to everyone riding out the storm and staying dry. Have a drink for those in Jeju and everywhere else that's going to get hit. The same goes for everyone in the US's Gulf region.

Tonight's music's some classic rock and roll about harsh weather and hard times:

Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Moon Rising

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A year on the frontier, pt. 1

It's been a year since I've started this blog and it's been one hell of a time. The new school year's first week ends on Friday and the year's already off to a great start. My birthday's tomorrow and life's lovely. Thanks to everyone for being here. Cheers.

Here's some year end statistics:

Number of posts: 65

Pageviews today
Pageviews yesterday
Pageviews last month
Pageviews all time history

Here's the top 5 most viewed posts:

Aug 27, 2011, 1 comment

Thank you, everyone. Standby for more updates this week. Cheers.

A couple goals for this next year:

Write something new here once a week or more.
More links to Korean news article
Write more about teaching and ESL/EFL

The Latte King

It may be small, but it serves excellent coffee--it's second only to Terarosa for the best in Korea, but don't call that a criticism, for both places serve up excellent brews. Their iced soy latte tastes creamy and bitter, plus it's strong and comes in a tall glass. Normally I take my coffee as black as the abyss, but it's good to drink something else every now and then, especially when it involves soy milk. Besides, extra won's more than worth it when the coffee can remind you of home. This Latte King's in the Haebangchon neighborhood of Seoul and I make a point of going there every time I go to Rochelle's place. We'd both thought it was a one-off place, but it is, to our surprise, part of a chain.

For those who want some food with their coffee, Latte King does offer sandwiches, cookies, and muffins. I haven't tried any of the sandwiches yet, but plenty of customers have ordered them and they've all looked tasty. There's wifi for your iPad and stack of magazines to read too. Go there and enjoy some quality drinks and food.

Backtracks: Adventures in Seoul with Rochelle

Seoul Grand Park (Seoul Zoo) - 9 June 2012

We went here for one of our first dates. As two people who love exploring new places, this seemed a natural destination. This was the best trip to a zoo since Zoo A La Carte with Mike and his family in Milwaukee last year. The word grand is an understatement here! We walked for hours and still didn't see everything, so we're going to come back again later. The zoo has every big animal can name and a few more. We saw rhinos, deer, and a bunch of pheasants. The pheasants get special mention because we learned that Korea has a native species of pheasant; we had no idea about it. If you want to come here, plan on doing plenty of walking. The place sprawls upon acres and acres. 

Ticket costs are damned reasonable, too: 3,000won. What's more, you can bring your own beer into the place! They have Family Marts outside and inside the zoo grounds, so that's a great deal. It knocks me out because the Milwaukee County Zoo charges at least $15 per person and doesn't allow you to drink on the zoo grounds. I don't mean to play up the alcohol too much, for it's just something I've noticed over here. There were no stumbling sloppy drunks at the zoo when we went. We only saw people hanging around sipping beers in the many picnic areas scattered about the place.

Namsan Tower, 23 June 2012

At Namsan Tower's "Locks of Love" art exhibit. We didn't go up into the observation deck, but we did get a good look around the place. It's a popular place for Koreans and tourists alike. You can see the actual locks below:

The wall of locks stretches on for much further than you can see here. Many Korean couples buy a lock and come here to attach it to the wall. The lock represents their love. Couples do it for lots of reasons. See this page for some more about this unique installation.

Taken at General Rabbit's Big Mug coffee shop near her neighborhood. We went there for smoothies to cap off the night after we'd done the tower and had eaten dinner with friends. The painting of a disco dancing military hare looked too good begged to have its picture taken.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Krock 3: Busker Busker and more from Lowdown 30

One post about music isn't enough today. Here comes a double blast of the poppy fun times Busker Busker and the previously mentioned blues of Lowdown 30. This post'll be shorter because I want to get it out there. Enjoy.

"Cherry Blossom Ending." A good slow number.

"Seoul People." This is an iTunes single with a mammoth hook.

Lowdown 30 covering Deep Purple's "Maybe I'm a Leo." (It's a quality deep cut from their 1972 album Machine Head) YES. Good for them for unearthing an old tune like this. Here's proof that classic rock will never die. I've always loved this song for its lowdown groove that's fun as hell to play on the guitar.

Krock 2: The Black Skirts

How'd I go 11 months without hearing or caring about Korean rock and roll? Maybe it was the kimchi and the incessant Kpop blasting out of every store's speakers. Maybe it was that, the new Black Keys record, and the Wipers that sated me so much that there was no energy left over to delve into Krock. Maybe. As the calendar ticks ever closer to marking One Year In Korea, it's time to make amends and get back to the rock and roll. The Kpop is good--only Amy Winehouse and her '50s/60s pop ilk are better for instant bliss pop tunes--but it doesn't deliver the goods the way rock and roll can. The first year has brought forth many pop gems (see below) and while I look forward to hearing many more, the rock's probably going to played more often.

Here's another round of Korean rock (and pop) for you:

검정치마 / The Black Skirts
The Korean name is pronounced "Geom Chung Chi Ma" and they're Holiday Cho's one-man band. According to Korea's Groove Magazine, he writes and sings melodic songs that carry a strong punk influence. I've only started recently listening to him and have been enjoying what's available on Youtube. He doesn't seem to too much punk in his sound based on the songs heard so far, but The Skirts don't disappoint on the melodies: every track has a strong and hummable hook to it. One of my students, a bookish music fan named Min-jun, saw their show at the Jisan Rock Festival and he said they were good. He also recommended that I listen to the first two songs here.

"International Love Song" - A midtempo guitar hook and a pleading vocal. The guitar riffs keep this from becoming another cliche. Lovely stuff.

"Antifreeze" Good synth hook here. Listen for the drums toward the end.

"좋아해줘" (Jo ah hae jweo)

[Edit: 조휴일 is the man who records under the Black Skirts name. I don't know the song's title. I'd erroneously thought his name was the song's title because that's what came up on the YouTube heading. Apologies.]
Last but not least, a bouncy ditty. It's notable for having a few words and phrases that I can understand, though not everything's translatable yet. Anyone know the title?

"아침식사" (Achim shisa) The title translates to "morning meal," which is what Koreans call breakfast. The bounce continues.

"기사도" (Gi sa do) Here's where the punk comes in, but only as far as punk means distorted guitars and driving beats, so this is more Buzzcocks than GBH for those of you who know your British punk bands. This sound and the previous one come from the album Don't Worry, Baby (I'm Only Swimming)

If any of you out there know of any more good Krock, don't hesitate to leave some recommendations. Cheers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quick Hit: Foodstuffs, Sandals

Bibimbap in all its sublimely tasty glory. It's rice with a fried egg and various vegetables and it works as a breakfast, lunch or dinner dish. I'd especially recommend it as a good meal to have after a night out. This particular photo got taken at a restaurant on the 2nd floor of the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal.  Usually the rice is already inside the bowl and the tasty pepper paste is on the side though. No matter: the generous array of side dishes sets this bibimbap apart from the rest. There's spicy bean sprout soup, kimchi, spinach, and more for 5,000won. Quite the treat considering it killed part of an hour wait time between buses home.

These kinds of sandals are available everywhere here and they're dirt cheap: 2-4,000won gets you a new sturdy and comfortable pair. Some come in different colors too. I thought I'd post this because they're part of life here. Everyone wears them.

Vacation Pt. 3: Wrapping Up The Cross-Province Shuffle

The new school semester began on Thursday, 16 August.

The summer vacation lasted from 6 to 15 August altogether. EPIK teachers usually get shorter summer breaks and longer winter ones, though 9 days off proved good enough for a break from school.

The Gangneung trip may have been dampened by rain, but it and the rest of the vacation went down quite well. Rochelle and I enjoyed the scenery around the province of Gangwon and she said she'd like to come back to the coast before the year's out. Good plan. It'll happen sooner or later, for we've got until the middle of October before the weather starts getting cooler. Surely we can get some beach action before too long. We still have to get to Ojukheon as well, for that's a lovely historical site. The museum's good, too.

Also, I never did finish writing Daejeon and what went on out there. I was there from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday afternoon--the plans originally called for staying until Friday, but I left early and went back to Seoul. This means I never made it to the Science Park and didn't do the city tour either. A few things factored into the choosing to leave early:
  • Troubles with the motel room: the refrigerator and the water cooler wouldn't stop leaking water on the floor after a day. I'd tried mopping the water with a towel, but it didn't work because the water kept coming. Putting a bowl under the cabinet the refrigerator and the water cooler didn't help either because the incessant dripping got irritating. I told the manager about it and he moved me into a different room, which was great, except for one thing: the new room had a computer that didn't work in it. No computer = no Internet. The place didn't have wi-fi either. Asking about a different room didn't help either; either the place didn't have one or they wouldn't give it up. 
  • Lack of motivation to see the Science Park. I know: I came to Daejeon to see it and to wander around the city. It didn't seem like it was worth going to after a while though. I did make it as far as taking the subway to the necessary bus stop though.  
  • Feeling distracted. Maybe it was because I not only went there to wander, but also to relax, play guitar, and get ready for the upcoming semester. And both things did happen to some extent. Walking the streets felt great and so did playing the guitar and looking up bands and songs mentioned in the book London's Burning. Nonetheless, I kept thinking that the trip was only a stopgap before the Gangneung trip because that trip weighed more on my mind than Daejeon ever did.
  • Feeling out of place in a strange and new city. Normally exploring new places equals excitement and good times but that idea didn't hold as much sway in Daejeon. Going there alone seemed especially exciting because I'd never done something like that before--hell, I'd never been completely alone in any new city for more than 12 hours (aside from the long Chuseok weekend last year in Wasu) before going there. The solitude seemed exciting, and for a while, it was--and then the excitement turned to loneliness. Maybe some more practice is needed at this stuff, but a day and a half seemed like more than enough time alone. People were around everywhere but it wasn't the same as being among friends.
In spite of not feeling like doing much there, I wonder if Daejeon didn't get a fair shake, especially when it has some good stuff going for it. It is well laid out: it's laid out like a grid and the side streets don't twist and turn like Seoul's does. It looks like any other Western-style city: wide main streets lined with trees, big sidewalks, storefronts, narrower side streets, parks scattered about. It's also flat and spacious--Seoul's the biggest city in the country, but its topography makes for some cozy neighborhoods and the Han river and various canals section different parts off well. Daejeon goes in the other direction: I never got the sense I was in a distinct neighborhood so much as I was in the western part of the city. The cab ride from the big, yet bright and inviting* Express Bus Terminal across town to the motel confirmed this: Daejeon loudly presents itself as a major transportation hub with its wide roads and numerous under and over-passes.

Here're some pictures of the city:

Some of Daejeon's mile-wide boulevards. They're great for traffic and not so great for crossing on foot.
Taken near the bus stop that gets you to the Science Park. I went to the nearby E-Mart instead.

The Yuseong Stream (Yuseongcheon) near the motel. The biking and walking path looked good.

The spillage.
Above: shots of the Cityone Motel. It's less than 3 blocks from the Yuseong Oncheon Subway Station. The room cost $142.66 for 3 nights. The money got paid in advance and there was no partial refund for leaving a day early.

Not quite sure what the balcony's purpose was because it seemed like it was only good for looking out of the window. It didn't have any chairs and even if it did, the windows didn't come down far enough for anyone to sit down and look outside.

Will Daejeon get another visit? Sure. Will the Cityone Motel? Probably not. It boasts quick access to a bus station (but not the Express one) and it lies near a subway stop for the popular Yuseong hot springs, but the good rooms were marred by leaky equipment. The service was fine though. The managers spoke some English and were friendly as well.

*Indeed it was! Unlike Seoul's overcrowded and overstuffed Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, the Daejeon Express Bus Terminal is spacious and clean. It has an array of restaurants, snack counters, an E-Mart, and a movie theater. The staff's helpful as well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vacation Pt. 2: Rainy but fun days in Gangneung

Picture from Rochelle's iPhone.

We rode right into every traveler's nightmare: It was hot and sunny when we got in on Saturday and it's been raining off and on ever since. Nonetheless, we still have been enjoying our time here on the east coast and are making plans to return sometime within the next couple of months.

Highlights from the trip

Saturday night: Samgyeopsal barbecue

Samgyeopsal is grilled pork belly and it's similar to bacon, but it has one key difference: it's 10 times better than bacon.

Grilling samgyeopsal at one of the nearby restaurants.

Side dishes of kimchi, spinach, radishes, lettuce, sesame oil, red pepper paste, and more. The raw samgyeopsal's in the background.


Terarosa Coffee Factory, Charmsori Gramophone Museum, and Gyeongpo Beach

Terarosa's a famous place among Koreans and Westerners alike. Set outside the city, the place serves delicious coffee from around the world and has a tasty brunch/lunch menu. It is less a factory than a rustic house surrounded by lush green trees and plants. Most everything's made of wood; the place feels cozy and warm even in the air-conditioned indoors. You can sit outside in a couple of areas as well. We did this because it meant quicker service and a chance to take a closer look at the greenery.

At the entrance.

Me and a delicious cup of Honduran coffee, a circle of red bean bread, and Rochelle with a tasty cappucino. Our shrimp omelet had yet to arrive when the picture got taken. The food tasted good too. The coffee and food can be a bit expensive, but it's worth it because coming here isn't an every day activity. That 5,000won cup of coffee was worth every, er, 10won coin, too. I've written previously about coffee in Korea here and this cup tasted like the best stuff does back home. 

 We had lunch here to commorate 100 days together as a couple. Younger Koreans tend to count time in relationships in days instead of months, so celebrating 100 days together is a unique part of the culture and so thought we'd join in too. Photo taken by a nice Korean girl who happened to be sitting with her boyfriend at the next table over. She saw me taking a picture of the coffee and leaned over to ask about taking our pictures. We ended with a few shots. She spoke good English and we chatted about the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy.

*The Terarosa website provides directions for taking the bus or taking a taxi. The taxi will cost more but it will get you there faster.

We took a cab from Terarosa and went straight to the Charmsori Gramophone Museum and Edison Science Museum. Rochelle thoroughly enjoyed this. It felt great to see the place again. The old ad for 78s that said "78rpm--A speed we can live with" cracked me up because 78s quickly lost favor once 33 1/3rpm vinyl LPs came in years ago. Numerous families had brought their kids here and I couldn't help but wonder what they thought of the old gramophones and music boxes. Those under 12 have no knowledge of a world without mp3s and file trading. How would they view putting on an LP and dropping the needle onto a favorite track? I know it felt wondrous when I did it years ago. Regardless, it's good that they got to see some history.

*Some good fortune occurred on the way out: a friendly staff member gave us 10 dollars worth of postcards once she saw that we could speak Korean. 

The museum sits next to the Gyeongpo lake and we walked down one side of it until we came to the famous Gyeongpo Beach. The rain had started picking up by this point, but no one seemed to notice or care until the downpour came 30 minutes later. We didn't think too much of the rain either. This trip marked my fourth time to the east coast and I was hell-bent on wading into the water. And I did. It felt to stand in the East Sea part off the Pacific Ocean. [Note: The East Sea is also known as the Sea of Japan. I grew up calling it the Sea of Japan, but the Koreans insist on calling it the East Sea]

Gyeongpo Beach on a rainy day. Note the people and the police tent in front.

The tents on the beach. Grab one while you can.

Monday: Again, more rain. We stayed in and watched movies while eating delicious barbecue chicken for takeout. Chicken joints are everywhere here and this was our first time getting takeout chicken. Got to start sometime, right?

Tuesday: The sun came out as we said our goodbyes to each other and to city. Rochelle went south to Ulsan to visit her cousin and I went west and then north to Wasu. It took took five hours to get from Gangneung to Seoul (via Dong Seoul) to Wasu counting stops and transfer time. The ride through Gangwon into Seoul was an endless wilderness of green forests, mountains, hills, and valleys. 

Wednesday: a national holiday. School begins again on Thursday.

*Gangneung to Dong Seoul Bus Terminal: 14,000won.
Dong Seoul to Wasu: 10,200won.

There'll be more coming soon...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interlude: More delicious Korean foods

Here's an excellent article about Korean food. It details some of the famous dishes from each region of the country and provides some background about kimchi and the different peppers and beans used in the various dishes.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vacation Pt. 2: A Few Lessons Learned

The getaway's underway. Rochelle and I have learned some valuable lessons during our travels around this city and Korea thus far. They're included here along with a few other observations about our first two days here on the coast.

  • Buses and assigned seats: Yes, people do care about them. You get assigned a seat whenever you ride on an express bus here. The bus seats are either in rows of one and two (one separate and two together) or two and two. Tickets seem to get assigned row by row until all the rows get taken up. I've never paid too much attention to my assigned seat number and have sat wherever I wanted to. No one had ever said anything about it all year until one of a group of four college-age girls approached Rochelle and I after we'd sat down. (Note: the driver had checked our tickets and hadn't said anything about us) Even though we knew we were technically in the wrong, we tried to explain that we sat together because we're a couple, but the girl insisted, so we ended up sitting apart from one another. The downside to this was we couldn't easily talk to each other during the ride, but it did allow us time to catch up on our music. Lesson learned: if traveling with one or more people, buy all of the tickets at once so you can sit together.
  • My Daejeon-Seoul bus ticket. Note the Korean and English writing. You can't play the "dumb foreigner" card with this one.

  • Do not book motels with The site will charge your credit card before you arrive at the motel and it will charge you the first night's stay if you cancel the day of your arrival. They'll also will not refund any money if you check out early. We heard about this firsthand and our Korean buddy Young-hoon confirmed it too. He said that most Koreans don't like the site. I like and because neither site deducts money up front; while they do ask for a credit card number to hold an accomodation, you do not actually pay any money until you show up to check in at wherever you're staying.
  • Check your motel's location on the map. What looks close on the map isn't always so in reality. Then again, what looks to be in the middle of nowhere my still be accessible by bus. Again, something learned firsthand. I'd booked our motel, the Good Stay Motel Hill, because it had affordable rates and good amenities, but upon consulting the map, it looked like getting in and out of town would cost a fortune in taxi fare. Not true. We found that it's located 20 minutes outside of downtown Gangneung by bus and 10-15 minutes by taxi. Today we took a taxi in and rode a bus out.
    • Good Stay Motel Hill basic room rate: 40,000won/night. Room includes refrigerator, computer (with Internet), TV, air conditioning, and a balcony. There's a water cooler and a microwave downstairs as well. Despite being outside of the downtown area, it is an excellent deal. The motels and hotels near the bus terminal cost 70 to 90,000won a night. By staying here, you may pay more money in cab fare (if you choose to forgo the buses), but you'll still come out ahead. Plus, you may get an ocean view.
  • Study your Korean. Motel and hotel clerks may not know or speak much, if any English. The two older ladies running this place speak next to no English and we'd originally had some trouble with getting the details of our stay figured out. Young-hoon provided invaluable help over the phone.
    • On a practical note, you may note, you need to study the phrase "There's a problem with ~" in case there's something wrong with your room. Having a digital camera around to take a picture of the problem can help immensely as well. This happened to me in Daejeon because the refrigerator in the room was leaking water onto the floor. The hotel clerk did know some English, but I took a photo with the iPad and showed it to him and he understood right away.
  • Korea has excellent public transportation and taxi systems. This isn't so much a lesson as an observable fact. A nearby hospital with a taxi stand solved the taxi problem and we figured out the somewhat-confusing bus routes after studying them for a few minutes. And even though the schedules can get confusing, please note that Korea has excellent public transportation. This seemingly-remote motel's on more than one bus line and the buses run every 20-30 minutes. Fares are 770won (~75 cents) with a T-money card and 1,000won with cash .[Well, my T-money card had no money on it and the drive didn't object to the 1,000won bill I put in the box at least]
  • You may end up with cab driver who can't read a map or think to use a GPS. The key word here is may. Every other cabbie I've known has known exactly where to go and how to get there, but yesterday's cabbie couldn't figure out who to get to our motel. I'd shown him the place's address in Korean and he had a GPS in the cab but he didn't use it. It didn't help that he spoke no English and I didn't know enough Korean to keep up with what we was saying. We drove to the tourist office to ask about directions, but it was closed because it was after 5 on Saturday. (Idea: keep tourist offices open on weekends because that's usally when tourists go traveling) The clerks in the nearby City Hall (somehow it was open) told him where to go. He eventually drove us there, but he missed the turn off and proceeded to miss the front entrance.
    • As a side note, when we finally arrived, a patient from the home for mentally disabled next door was outside and ushered us inside. Rochelle and I both knew that we weren't in the hotel, but we'd also long ago learned that it's best to follow along with the Koreans. We walked inside to find more than eight patients eagerly wanting to meet us. Among them was an older white man who spoke English with a European accent. He did the standard Korean thing asked us where were from. Despite feeling overwhelmed, we greeted everyone amicably because they were all quite nice and then made our exit. We must've missed Nurse Ratched; she was nowhere in sight. Another observation: Korean zoning laws are nothing like they are in the US. You would never see a mental hospital next to a motel in the States.

The motel from the outside.

The view from our 6th floor balcony. You can see the East Side (aka the Sea of Japan) in the background. Yep, we've an ocean view.

Korean cultural lesson: Notice the lack of a 4th floor. Most Korean buildings do not have a 4th floor because the Sino-Korean word for four, sa is sounds like the Chinese word for death.

Next up: photos from Gangneung, including the Terarosa Coffee Factory and Gyeongpo Beach. Cheers!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vacation Pt 2: Gangneung

The trip began earlier at 9:45am when we caught the Line 6 train out of Noksapyoung and headed for the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal at Gangbyeon Station. Our 10:40 bus to Gangneung was sold out when we arrived, so we'll be on the 11:20 bus.

Standby for updates on this and the just-finished Daejeon trip.

Krock 1: Lowdown 30

These guys rock like the Black Keys do back home. Hard drums and grooving' blues rock guitar. They recently played the Jisan Rock Festival. One of my students caught them and said they were great. Here's Seoul's own Lowdown 30...

Lowdown30 - 중독

Lyrics in English and Korean

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vacation Pt. 1B: Daejeon info

Update: it's around 9pm local time here and I'm sitting on the patio outside of Ediya Coffee beside a big 4 way intersection. The heat's died down and the wind's picked up. It feels refreshing. If it were cooler, this wind would be too much to bear, but it's a welcome change from the usually still nights.  While there is usually a slight breeze in Wasu or Seoul, I've only noticed brisk winds in storms. 

The day's winding down here. So far a few groups of elementary school kids have asked me how I'm doing and where I'm from. A 30-something man did the same earlier while I was writing this. This usually happens any time I go anywhere here and it makes getting around fun. Kids seem to love to practice their English whenever they encounter a foreigner. They just come up and start talking. 

I forgot to include links to sites about Daejeon earlier. The city is Korea's 5th largest and it's the capital of Chungcheongnam-do. It lies in the middle of the country. You may be wondering what I chose to come here, so here it is: I wanted a new city to see and a new part of the country to see. I haven't been south of Suwon (a city south of Seoul that's connected via the subway) or Gangneung yet and thought this place would work. I don't know anybody here and don't know of any trendy places to go as well. That's all right though. I didn't come for any craziness. Not knowing anybody won't be too much of a problem here--as opposed to Wasu--but that may change by Friday. Who knows. It's time to keep walking. Cheers.

Daejeon on Wikipedia

Daejeon on Wikitravel

Vacation pt 1: Daejeon

The scene:
Bus from Wasu to Seoul: 10,200won.
Bus from Seoul to Daejeon: 14,600won

5:30pm, at 다유미 김밥 사랑. [Da Yoo Mi Kimbap Sarang]
Eating bibimbap and enjoying the free Wi-fi.
Price of meal: 3,500won, or around 3 dollars. You can't go wrong with bibimbap; it's inexpensive, healthy, and filling. It's good at any time of the day and is especially suited for breakfast. 3,500 is the least I've paid for the dish, as it's usually between 4000 and 5000won, but it tasted perfectly fine. This place is just cheaper than other Kimbap shops.

The ride in: the Seoul - Daejeon route ranks among the smoothest and straightest of freeways I've ridden on. It felt like driving I-65 through Indiana with mountains instead of cornfields on either side of the highway.

I'm in Daejeon from today until Friday. I booked a motel room and brought the acoustic guitar down here so I could wander around and relax in a new city. The only specific things I plan on doing here are seeing the science park and going on a city tour. Other than that, the days are wide open. Most likely I'll take a lot of walks in try to dodge the sweltering summer temperatures as best as possible. The rainy season's passed and the country's sweating out the rest of the summer with 80-90 degree temperatures every day. This will probably mean going out in the mornings and evenings and basking in the air-conditioned serenity of the motel room during the afternoons. . If you're curious about the weather here, it's the same in Daejeon as it is in Seoul and Wasu: hot and humid. The humidity has been tapering off at least. 

The total time it took to get from Wasu to Seoul to Daejeon took four hours and fifteen minutes, the 30 minute wait between buses in Seoul and the 10 minute walk to the bus station in Wasu. My motel, the City One Motel, sits across town from the Daejeon bus terminal, but the cab ride only took 15 minutes. The motel's across the street from the subway and the room's exactly like the pictures I saw on the website. I've a computer, water cooler, mini-fridge, TV, a big bathroom,  a couch, and a balcony. It should be a good time here. Motels, karaoke rooms, and convenience stores line the  neighborhood's streets. Some restaurants are here as well.  You're never too far from restaurants or convenience stores in Korea. A stream lies a couple blocks up the road and it has walking and biking paths next to it as well, so I'll be checking that out when the sun goes down.