Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lunar New Year's Weekend - Sokcho

So as to celebrate New Years for the second time in 2 months, Shannon, Nic, Gilles, Geoff and I set off for the east coast, last friday night after work. We anticipated a 16-hour, bumper-to-bumper epic bus ride. Somehow the holiday traffic was headed the opposite direction, and so we arrived in Sokcho with about 5 hours before the sun rose than morning. Which of course was filled with fried bacon (samgyeopsal-here, eating 3 pounds of pork is legit), poker, and soju, followed up with frisbee on the beach. A beautiful start to a very merry new year.

On our last afternoon we did get out to spend a few hours wandering in Seoraksan park, the crown jewel of South Korea's mountain wildernesses. While the clouds kept the tallest peaks from view, we were far from ambitious and took our time among the streams, leaves, and temples below.

What follows is a short testament to the events between arriving in Sockcho and our musings beneath Seorak. Sleep, I'm learning, is best kept for weekdays, and too much laughter is simply an impossibility. Another one for the books. All the best for 2007, in the lunar calendar that is.

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As check-out time approaches, its nearly time to call it a night. But not quite yet. Geoff and Shannon decide once and for all that barley for breakfast truly is priceless.

Shannon demonstrates a polite, customary Korean, 2-handed soju pour. Some cultures also practice filling the glass past the meniscus full-point and out onto the table, but its not typical in Korea. Maybe in Wisconsin.

As our small group constituted half of Hotel Sorak Park's New Years weekend clientelle, the highly-acclaimed rainbow club casino remained closed. Gilles and Geoff try their luck and money at street fighter instead, and later, with dance-dance revolution. Certainly much better odds than roulette.

Noraebang tends to get a little exciting. Especially when the Ghostbusters theme song comes up on the list. Or was this Lou Reed? Probably not - but this is something that North America is seriously lacking. I mean karaoke rooms, and Ghostbusters. Who else would you call? Please.

Things get a little out of hand at this point. Charges may be pending, but in Gilles defense, didn't an empty hotel drive Jack Torrence a little over the edge as well? A Shining example of how whiskey yields unpredicatable, yet memorable outcomes.

All work and no play make Jack dull boy. This will be my last long-weekend until the end of July. No kidding. The public school teaching calendar in Canada is looking pretty decent to me at this point.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Along the way - some snaps I grabbed on just another bluebird winter Sunday

I've still yet to harness the awesome power of the bean within my cooking - not sure how they'd taste with grilled cheese and spam, but maybe someday I'll try my own soup.

Mystery fish in a daisy chain for only W40,000 - Word.

Well since the purchase of my guitar - alright, ever since the computer even - my self-directed Korean lessons have dropped off rather sharply. However signs like this make reading practice fun. Lets see how close it comes... Hah-ee-mah-teu. Hi-Mart. A simplified alphabet makes Hangeul (Korean) accessible to the peasantry, yet difficult to phonetically translate into English.

As its on the edges of Seoul, I'm able to longcut - skirt into the forest, escape the city for a few minutes and drop right in behind the Dangogae wall. Living along Seoul's jagged northern boundary, a walk in the woods and a jaunt down busy neon-lit thorough-fares might be the difference of a block. I love where I am.

A new acquaintance in climbing, Jae Il, Ko. When I'm 67, I want to spend Sundays chilling at climbing walls too. They sure know how to age out here.

As I've got plenty to look forward to, February has been just flying along. A long weekend on the East coast back in Sokcho, and a North Korean hiking trip in early March. More on both of these trips soon, but for now, here's a bit of Democratic People's Republic of Korea trivia you can impress your colleagues with:

Kim Jong Il is widely believed to control the weather in the North, and his father, having died more than a decade ago, constitutionally remains the head of state. Bananas!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

A Presidential Message on Global Warming - and "Winter" in Seoul.

Nothing grabs Korean attention like a bunch of short-clad weigooks (whites) playing river-side Ultimate Frisbee on a February afternoon. The pile of sand in the background is for the beach they're building along the Han. Its hard to find a decent stretch of field in Seoul, but its pretty sweet when you can.

A nice breeze picks up funky looking kites near the 63 building in Seoul.

Nic catches some Wednesday morning rays atop Bulamsan. I REALLY love starting work at 1pm!