Friday, June 26, 2009

Catching Up

Hey there everyone, it has been a few days since we have let you all know what is up. We have been exploring and relaxing. I believe that we are well adjusted now, life seems to have slowed down now.

During the Korean War, Geoje, our island, was used as a POW camp for the North Korean soldiers. It was neat to study the transition that our tiny valley has undergone. The now bustling city was nothing but POW tents and barbed wire about 50 years ago. The city we know as Gohyeon has developed from a small fishing village to a key in Korean shipbuilding industry. You can see the city in a previous posting we made on March 16th.

A mural/diorama of what the valley looked like during the Korean war.
A picture of what the valley looks like today.

We really have enjoyed the summer plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables we have come across in the market.

My sweetie has been working her chef like magic in the kitchen. She has turned out dozens of creative dishes over the past month.

and Salads.
The last photos I posted of bamboo arts and crafts were very popular. So much so, that I decided to give you all an update of the latest, in and out of the workshop. Can you guess what is going together here?


HMM, you might be right......


And yes, you are correct. Mikey and I are building a bamboo boat.

For those who are curious, here are some details of the construction project. Yes, it is a bit to read, but for those who do I believe that you will find the humorous narrative worth your while.

The week we visited the shipbuilding museum on the June 7th posting Mike and I put our heads together and decided that it would be cool to design and build a bamboo boat/raft. After researching many designs we decided against a raft, because we learned that green bamboo doesn't float. I read numerous stories about people building green rafts and then having them sink after the "grand launch ceremony". We opted for more of a over sized welsh coracle. After hashing out some design options we set off to find a convenient location where there was a good supply of the raw materials. I have talked to a number of Koreans about "just cutting bamboo in the woods" and none have said that there were any regulations or laws against it so long as you are not on private property. Well Mikey and I tromped up the mountain behind our house and found a newly made cemetery area, there are many, in which they had actually dozed a bunch of trees and bamboo into a pile. We set up shop. Day one was slow very little accomplishment was made. We fiddled around with designs and broke a few sticks trying to bend them, but came out with the general shape and size of what we wanted.

Day 2 was much more progressive. We were able to fashion a hull and begin to put some sides in place. While constructing the second day we had an unexpected visitor. Looking up from our work Mike said, "hey look, we have company", and gestured to the underbrush. There was a Korean man peeking in on the project. We gave him a smile and waved him over. He moved closer to inspect what we were up to. He didn't speak a word of English, but we were able to communicate some with gestures and the bits of Korean that we knew. Mike nicknamed him "Dude", and we learned that his house was about 300 yards down the mountain. I guess he heard us building. We inquired as to if he had anyone buried in the grave yard which we were working in. "Anio" he replied indicating that he had neither friends nor family buried there. After standing around for a while, Mike and I decided to continue our work. Dude stood by chain smoking his Korean cigarettes and monitoring our progress. We still were not sure if he approved of our project, but what can you say when you don't speak much Korean. He begun to motion that he disapproved of us cutting bamboo and we were like, "darnit". Mike made a trip to the pile of bulldozed trees with the saw. Dude followed. Mike pointed at the downed lumber and began to show where our supply was from. Dude paused, looked at the boat and then demanded the saw. Mike handed it over. Dude stepped up to a nearby live stick of bamboo and proceeded to cut it down. Mike and I exchanged glances and watched speechlessly as Dude timbered the tree and drug it up by the boat and then went back for the second kill. He liked our project and indicated that we were thinking well. He continued to help us for the next half-hour and then asked us in Korean if we liked coffee, "Coppee?". After giving him the thumbs up, he disappeared into the underbrush toward his house and returned about ten minutes later with hot coffee.

Life is always interesting when you are in another culture. Learning to communicate is the funniest part. Signals, gestures, body language, and broken bits of the native or foreign tongue are exchanged in the attempt of understanding one another. The fascination with the other culture is strong enough that one can usually manage to get by. Our boat close to completion now. We are looking for a good tarp at the local hardware stores to stretch over the underside. Yes, more communication difficulties, but fun and challenging. Well keep you updated.

Here are some more crafts that I have made in the indoor workshop.

Votive candle holder
Accent lighting for our living room
The floor fixture
I finally got the handles figured out. (Use fire)
Traditional loose leaf tea strainer. I saw these at Insadong when we were in Seoul.

A basket. This project was difficult, fun, and definitely rough.

An incense holder complete with a latching hatch lid.

We went out with some fellow teachers this week to "Shabbu, Shabbu". Sorry I don't know the translation for the restaurant name but their specialty, soup is fantastic. They bring out a huge pot with the base broth to you table and place it on top of the inset burner. You then add, stir, and cook the ingredients as you go. Meat, vegetables and greens, mushrooms, fresh made noodles all consist of the first part. Then when you have eaten all of that you add rice and an egg to the remaining broth to make a delicious, flavor filled porridge. Not a bit is wasted.

That is about it for now. I have more but I will save it for another posting which I will not wait so long for next time. Thanks for staying in touch. If you want a post card let us know.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Life here in Korea is well. Despite what one hears on the news, everything is very calm. The potential threat from North Korea isn't even discussed here. The South Korean people really don't pay much attention to the threats anymore. It seems that North Korea has cried wolf one to many times.

Teaching is exciting as usual. Rather than post a number of photos at this second we thought a short video clip would give you a better idea of what it is like to teach these little monkeys.

We are putting together another post with more bamboo arts and crafts as well as more island adventures. It should come out in a few days. So keep an eye out for more. Sorry for the long wait. Is seems like nothing too exciting has happened reciently. Maybe we are getting more comfortable and accustomed to the culture. Fewer things are a shock these days.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Random Tidbits of Life

You never know what you will see at school. Chelsie began having "show and tell" time in one of her classes. One day one of the boys brought his hamster to class and since then, the kids have continued to bring pets when it is their turn to bring the item. Last week we were surprised when a couple of the boys brought their "pets". Walking by the classroom I saw a huddle taking place, and upon investigating I found that Andrew and John had brought their pet beetles. Apparently this is a common boys pet here in Korea. They are big fans of Rhinoceros beetles and Stag beetles.

As he fearlessly held the bug, I asked Andrew if his beetle had a name, and he just said, "Nope, its just beetle."

Chelsie has been very dedicated to taking dance class. She goes every morning during the week before school. She has learned a number of dances which are prominent in Korean pop culture. The kids love it when she shows them up in class. Dance class has also been good for her in that she has made a number of friends and has picked up some more of the language which surrounds us.

We hosted a group of friends from the dance academy one afternoon.
Gohyun Church has been a wonderful encouragement since we have been here. We are have become involved in helping with the Sunday afternoon worship during the English service . The church organized an afternoon trip to a new shipbuilding museum on the island, I'm still not sure why they called it a theme park. Watch out for pirates.
Our friends Mike and Alissa accompanied us. The 3D simulator ride was a blast.
Shipbuilding is the strongest industry here in Korea. The museum beautifully portrayed the history as well as the modern wonders of the industry. The guys were fascinated, the ladies, well, not so much.

Sang-Eon Chun, a principal engineer and a 35 year employee of Samsung Heavy Industries, was a riot and and an excellent source of information along the way. He is a member of the church and one of the funniest Koreans I have met. His expertise is in Drill ships which he explained with enthusiastic animation.

A number of the members of the English church service.
We spent another Saturday at the beach. It was delightful. The sun was very warm and the water is getting warmer as well. Chelsie packed a picnic lunch and we relaxed.

Here are a few last photos that we have caught around town. It is always interesting to investigate what is being sold on the street. Many of the vendors sell right out of their trucks. Bong-tiki, a puffed rice cake is a very popular snack that is made on the spot. It is simply whole grain rice puffed using pressure and heat. Cool machine. MMM, moshie-soyo, delicious!
At the market, a greater variety of fruits and veggies are getting less expensive and more abundant as the seasons change.
Steamed crab, anyone?
That is the latest around here. Stay tuned and well bring you more, live from Korea.