Friday, May 29, 2009

Our First Wedding Anniversary

This past week Chelsie and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary (May 24th). I cannot believe that it was a year ago since we vowed our love for each other on that beautiful evening. We both would agree that it has been one awesome year. We love being together. We celebrated with an outing to Busan and dinner at a delicious Italian restraunt.

I love my girl. She amazes me all the time. She is a beautiful woman of character full of encouragement and love. God has truly blessed me with a wonderful mate for life.
and she is an excellent cook.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Living in a bamboo house

One thing for sure, from the way bamboo grows around here you would think we were in Asia. Its just that you don't see any panda bears. The bamboo forests are thick and tall. Reaching about 35 to 40 feet in the air they are prone to damage from winds and seaside gusts. A quick bit of research tells me that bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth. It can average four feet of growth a day. Its incredible ability to grow so fast makes it an excellent resource.
Bamboo was one of the novelties which I was really looking froward to seeing while we are here.
The other day Mike, a friend and fellow English teacher from the states, and I went out to harvest some of this plentiful natural resource. We found a number of canes that had fallen in the last wind storm, cut them up, tied them in bundles, and hiked back to the apartment. We did get some funny looks. Unlike the States, it is legal to harvest off of national and state parks here. With tons of ideas for products in mind we had an "arts and crafts day" on our front porch. We bought all of our tools at the local "made in china store" and begun to saw, sand, and glue.
Here is my workshop on our front porch. Chelsie has been very sweet and has tolerated the mess that I make when construction is under way.

My largest project was a floor lamp. Floor lamps are very expensive here so I decided to make one. It is great for replacing the bright flouresent light with a warmer light.
It has been a challenge, and I wish I had some power tools.

The shade was made out of split bamboo, glue, string, and paper from the paper store across the street.

Drinking mugs were a must. I have had lots of fun experimenting with the handles.

Smaller drinking glasses came as well. I hope to have a nice set when all is said and done.

A soap dish for beside the tub.

Incense holder.

Tiki sounds now come from our new windchime.

One of the most unique creations has been the candle holders which are lashed together by a paper rope material. They add great atmosphere to our living room. The bamboo is initially green and then after a week or two it begins to turn the golden brown that we are more familiar with.

In the mornings while Chelsie is gone to dance class I sometimes go climbing with my friend Zach. Because there is no "Z" sound in Korean and the "J" is similar, he is known also as Jack at school. First by bus, and then by taxi we find our way to the climbing area out by Tongyong.
Its a short hike into the mountains and on the way we walk through a small rural area. All the garlic has just been harvested and so it is piled in huge mounds and hung on fences and cables stretched between trees and houses.

The climbs that we have tackled reciently are rated 5.10a and 5.10b. Zach is a better climber that me and keeps me challenged. There are around 20 to 25 bolted routes that are well maintained at this location. Most are two pitched routes which means that there is a change up in belays before reaching the top.
Zach and I trade off on leading the route. There was a really challenging spot on the route this week that we took a couple cracks at after we had it top-roped.

The view from the top is great. The rice patties are really greening up, and the islands on the horizon peek out of the moring fog. We both really enjoy the fresh air, the rocks, and the wilderness.
I would be happy to admit that the highlight of this past week was the surprise birthday party that Chelsie held for me. Upon arriving home one night I was jumped by a bunch of our friends and co-workers packed in our living room. The evening was filled with brownies, rice crispies, juice, and laughter. Yes I have made it to the ripe age of 24.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday Afternoons

So how do you spend a lazy Sunday afternoon?

A relaxing weekend it was. I believe the most adventurous it got this weekend was a trip to E-mart in nearby Tongyong. We enjoyed the company of our friends Mike and Allissa this weekend and planned for travels to come. We have become quite involved in a church which has an English service at 1:00. This leaves us with a bit of time to do something in the afternoon.

Two Sundays ago we hopped aboard the Island bus for a dollar and took it to Gujora beach without too much confusion.

We took our books, our sandwiches, and a blanket. Although it was not warm enough to want to swim we still enjoyed the sand, the sounds, and the getaway.

Chelsie has been reading some classic Jane Austin novels and I have stuck to pirate adventures like Treasure Island.
A simple and delightful adventure. I'm sure that we'll be back when the weather gets warm.

Weekend weather, like this Sunday afternoon, sometimes calls for a good hike. So my sweetie and I laced up our boots and headed for the peak, Gyeryongsan it was. We have been to, and wrote about, hiking to the top before, but I just wanted to give you an update: the mountain is still there. At the base of the hiking trail there is a temple which is very well kept and always adds a wonderful taste of Korea.
The rain came down heavy this weekend, so the trail was a bit sticky in places, but not to complain because the waterfalls were beautiful.
Yes, the summit. Koreans don't build switchbacks into their trials. They build steps. The hike was straight up. A panoramic masterpiece came to view upon summiting the san (mountain).

The summit marker. About 1800 feet above sea level.

We stopped in a gazebo on the way down to enjoy the sunset. Banana chips and a sandwich came out of the backpack. MMM. We also enjoyed water with a bit of fresh cut rosemary, a new-found favorite.
A view of our home below. It was nice to see things have finally greened up.
That is about it. Like I said they are lazy Sunday afternoons.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The heart and Seoul of Korea. 서울

In Korea they a holiday for children. For the kids this means a day off at school and for us it meant that we had a four day weekend. Chelsie and I decided to use this extended weekend and take a trip to the big city, Seoul. With a guide book in hand and a backpack on each of our backs we hopped aboard the 7:20 bus. The four hour trip to the capital is literally on the other side of the country.

Insa-dong 인사

Our first adventure began in one of the many marketplaces in Seoul. It is a valid attempt to bring a taste of historic Korea to the consumer and the tourist. We had a wonderful time poking our heads in and out of each suitcase sized store. Fabrics, handmade paper, jewelery, art, antiques, trinkets, pottery and more overwhelmed us for the afternoon.

Of the many products in Insa-dong we were particularly interested in the pottery. There was a wide range of prices and qualities. From fine fine expensive traditional celadon pieces, to the factory stamped tea cups, it was all there.

Chelsie was fascinated by the unique handmade silver jewelery. There were shops and street vendors sporting their wares.
She selected a couple pieces and bought a set. It looks wonderful on her. Sorry, I don't have a pic.
They was an array of brushes for traditional calligraphy.
Tea = 차 =cha (short "a")
Tea seemed like a necessity after an afternoon of shopping. We discovered a Korean specialty: Dew Tea. It is made by a special processing of the Hydrangea leaf. It is naturally sweet, caffeine free and very smooth. We bought only a small amount of the loose leaf in the market, as it is quite expensive.
Seoul has a very clean, efficient and well routed metro system. We rode the subway all week to many different sections of the city.

We were amazed at the variety of architecture throughout the city. There is a taste of the old and the new throughout.
The world trade center in Korea.

It truly is a city that is always alive, always awake. As you can see, here is an example of a street that is well smattered with neon signs. You can see and feel the ever increasing English influence in this culture. Many refer to it as "the language of success."
We stayed two nights at the Ritz Motel. Hotels are a story and a blog posting in themselves. I'll have to get to that later.
Changdeokgung and Deoksugung Palaces
Amongst many, there are four main temples/palaces in the Seoul metro area. They are well protected and well taken care of. One tour was self guided and the other had an English tour guide.

I am trying to keep this posting simple and not overwhelm you with information, but if you visit South Korea it is worth your time to visit these rebuilt architectural masterpieces.
Garak Market 가락시장
This one was an eye opener. I have seen markets, I have sold at markets, but I have never seen one this big. Garak Market is the largest agricultural exchange hub in Seoul. Chelsie and I spent a good 2 hours meandering through this maze of fruits, vegetables, and fish and still didn't see it in its entirety. A large amount of bulk products are sold here. This market is the middle man for restaurants, grocery stores, and other vendors across the country.
and Roots can be found here.
Garlic cloves are sold by the Kilo.
Fishy friends?
As far as you can see in every direction there are fish and fishy people. Yes, we got lots of funny stares and lots of offers to buy here. You just smile and keep walking. "Anio, gamsamida" = No I do not want to buy that weird looking sea creature.
Octopus arms. Yum.
Dried fish
Dongdaemun Market 동대문시장
Chelsie and I get a kick out of seeing all the markets if you haven't noticed by now. What do we buy? You'll see at the end of this posting, but honesty, not much.
Dongdaemun Market provided us with a taste of a merchandise market. It had less fruits and veggies and more household items. You name it it was there. It was sensory overload. Click on the pictures for a closer look. Can we pick you up anything?
There are many ladies here who are happy to provide you with lunch while you shop. MMM, pig feet, and it looks like real sausage and squid are on the menu too.
Lots of plants on the border of this market as well. Chelsie and I couldn't resist this temptation.
Cactus of every color,
and orchids too. We ended up buying some orchids. We decided that they would be easier to transport on the return trip than a cactus.
Here is what we managed to fit in our backpacks and carry at our sides. Beautiful orchids, a celadon tea set, a beautiful scarf, some Korean coins from the 1850's, dew tea, ginseng candy, masks from hi-Seoul festival, and some classic English literature we found in a monster book store. Looks like a successful trip to Seoul. Chelsie and I have loved our travels together thus far. We make good traveling buddies. It is always an adventure.
The end of the vacation was topped off with a double shot of espresso over a peanut covered icecream ball, an affogato, at a cute cafe called A Twosome Place.

The End 끝나
Whew, you made it.
Some have requested our mailing address. We route all of our mail to the reliable school address.
c/o Jesse and Chelsie Bright
2F Hywon Bldg. 208-6 Gohyeon-lee, Shinhyeon-eup
Geoje-shi, Gyeongnam 656-304
We can also provide you with the school's phone number upon request