Saturday, October 31, 2009

Entertainment in Gohyeon

Hello this posting was a bit late. I was holding out until the last weekend was over. We went to a pottery festival and I was hoping for some killer photos. I will still report, but there weren't too many National Geographic moments. So, for now I will give you all an update on life here in Gohyeon City.

The church held a traditional Korean theme last Sunday. We all had the chance to try on some traditional Hanbok garb. I felt like a Samurai or a Ninja. It was cool. (oh wait, Ninja and Samurai were Japanese. Never mind)
The members of the English Service at Gohyeon Church.
So, when we are not teaching we have found other life enriching things to do.
The men go and play screen golf which I never thought could be so entertaining. I have never been a real golfer. In fact the only times that I had ever hit a golf ball, was at put put courses and when my friend and I hit some balls into the west cow pasture from his back porch. First you choose a real course from a world map, then you can warm up by hitting some balls at the virtual driving range.

Next you choose from a real set of clubs, watch an electric arm place the ball on the tee, and then step up and smack that little white ball like you are outdoors. The high tech sensors read the trajectory and speed and calculate your results: distance, slice, fade, elevation, flight path and so on. When the ball come to a rest, the hitting platform adjusts for the slope on which the ball landed. Putting is always a trick as well. The game is complete with statistics, replays of your swings, birds chirping, and automatic scoring. Nothing like golfing in air conditioning in the summer.

My friends who are seasoned golf connoisseurs claim that it is quite accurate, but at times blame a bad hit on the game. Someday when I play on real greens the truth might tell. I doubt Ill score much better though.
My friend Mark is one of the real gofers (Caddy Shack). He played quite a bit in South Africa, but now that he is here, this is getting him by.
Chelsie has taken up Tae-kwon-do at an academy named Su-namu Han-ke (Fragrance of the Pines, directly translated). Tae-kwon-do is a marshal art which originated in Korea. Chelsie attends five times a week in the evenings.
She enjoys it very much. Growing up, her whole family trained in the States, but she has always wanted to study it here. She says that there alot of similarities in the patterns that she is learning so it is not completely new. They undertake some rigorous exercises and she says that the language barrier has been a challenge to overcome. There is another girl from South Africa which is training as well.
I was able to come and observe the other day. Although I didn't get to see some kung-fu man break a dozen boards with his head, I did get to see Chelsie test and get her yellow belt. She restarted the program when she started here. She had earned her brown belt at home but restarted the program here.

The kiddos that take Tae-kwon-do are some of our students at ECC English school. They think Chelsie is pretty cool since she is learning to punch and kick.
Although these shots were taken a while back, I have been wanting to include them into a blog. It seems like the entertainment blog would be an appropriate place to insert them.
A popular way to party with a group is to go to a Norae-bong, a singing room. It is like a private karaoke room. They are very easy to spot on the busy streets of any nightlife part of town. (Below: NO-RAE-BONG. Norae = music, bong = room. )

Can you spot the music rooms on this bustling street?
You are given a very thick book with a section of English songs to choose from.

The music begins and the time flies. Below is our friend and co-worker Fiona Teacher.
This a Dan, who is now back in Canada sadly, singing his hear out.
A couples song. Dan and Lindsay and us.
Dan and I singing a Simon and Garfunkel classic, "The Boxer".
An once again Dan and I, the crazy boys, throwing down some beat with the disco ball enhancing the club like atmosphere.
Here are a couple videos that I thought would make this posting a little more real.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jirisan National Park

Accompanied by Mark, a fellow ECC teacher, we fired up the motorcycles and headed 150 kilometers north to Jirisan National Park. The trip there was half of the adventure, exploring new routes, we stopped frequently to consult our Korean map and ask directions.
A we neared the park, for several kilometers the cherry trees stretched their dark branches over the roads. The fall leaves blew off of the road as we buzzed through the countryside. It would be a fantastic ride in the spring. We followed a river valley into the park. Our progress slowed a bit when we neared the green tea plantations. We stopped to take pictures and explore the area.

Mark, on Silver Sally, and I on the Mighty Magma.

Mark harvested the wild persimmons....

and and Chelsie gathered chestnuts. We were blown away by the quantities of these two products this time of year. There is an over abundance of both domestic and wild.
We arrived at the entrance of the park and like many of the parks in Korea, there is always a temple tucked away in the trees.

I thought it interesting to see the elephants on the hinges. It is a reflection of the Indian influence in Buddhism.
Unfortunately not the sharpest photo in the shed, but I thought it to be majestic anyway.
Here is our crew. We met Andrew and Leise at the park. They are friends of ours from South Africa who rode the bus from Geoje and met up with us.
We went for a few kilometer hike up into the park in search of a waterfall. Unfortunately I didn't bring my spare battery with me. So you all will have to miss out on Bureil waterfall, but once we made it back to the bikes, I was locked and loaded once again. The falls were not very strong this time of year, as it has not been very rainy. Our ride back out of the mountains was most excellent.
In a nearby village, which I still don't know the name of, we found a number of meinbaks; guest house type accommodations. We found having a nice appearance, inquired to the price, and looked at the room. The warm hearted Korean lady which ran the guest house was very welcoming, and a great cook.
We enjoyed our dinner in a grilling shed. Ordering is always an interesting experience. Even though we can read Korean and therefore can read the menu, we don't always know the names of the dishes. Through bits and pieces of broken Korean we are able to convey what we like. It is always a surprise though when the food comes. It comprised of grilled, marinated chicken with a large assortment of traditional sides, such as pickled garlic, kimchi in many forms, onion salads, peppered squid, and acorn jelly to name a few. For dessert we roasted some of the chestnuts that Chelsie had gathered earlier, and sipped on traditional rice wine, Maggulli. It was a fantastic day.
That evening we settled into our cozy room with ondol heating. Ondol is the traditional heated floor and can be very toasty if you don't know how to turn it down. On Monday, at school, we learned from our Korean teachers how to politely ask to turn off the underfloor heat.
Back on the road the next day. Life is always an adventure. Our trusty road map took us from a two lane black highway with hefty shoulders to a narrow poured concrete road with steep grades meandering through the mountains. After running across, and talking with a few locals we were able to confirm we were on the right track. Later on we learned that this section of the map was a bit out of date. Nice. It was a memorable highway 1014.As we rode, rice was being harvested everywhere.
We stopped in a very interesting temple/museum/art area. The rock creations were wild.
It was a strange and unique type of creativity.
As we travel more in Korea we have become more comfortable with being in the culture. It is very motivating to learn more phrases and try more foods. Good times with good friends.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Seoraksan National Park

In October there is a Korean holiday called Chu-seok which is the equivalent of the American Thanksgiving combined with the gift giving of Christmas. We were given a very nice five day vacation and a bonus from our school. (Amazing school, I must say.) Chelsie and I originally had plans and flights for the Philippines, but the typhoon became a huge disaster down there and our flights were canceled. It was alright because there is plenty to do around here.

We made a trip to the northern part of South Korea, Sokcho to be exact, and took in the sights of their second most visited national park, Seoraksan.

As you may have already noticed, you cannot go too far in Korea without running across a temple or two. There are many, but this must be one of the biggest Buddhas that we have seen yet.

We met a really fun Korean man by the name of Mr.Quo. He was a bundle of energy, and with fairly good English skills, he voluntarily came our tour guide for the afternoon. He had been to the park a number of times and was very eager to be our host, which included insistence to pay for meals, bus tickets, park fees, snacks, water, and anything else he thought we needed. We have been overwhelmed with generosity, and hospitality on a number of occasions as we tour throughout Korea. It has given us a some quality insight to the culture. Mr.Quo, took us in the direction of Ulsanbowie, a fantastic climb with which included hundreds of steel stairways meandering their way up the unsurpassable rock face.

The summit was a delight in one direction we could see deep into the park and in the other we could see the vast ocean.

I hope you don't grow tired of the pictures of the traditional temples, because as long as we are in Korea, I am guessing that they will keep coming.

The lanterns are all hung from the ceiling inside the temple. I believe that the tags, which flutter in the breeze, are prayers.

The great bell found at all temples.

Old roof tiles in a pile. You can "purchase" new ones at a nearby counter and write on them. They are then stored for replacements or new construction.

Taking a break to refer to the Lonely Planet, our trusty guide.

There is a cable car in the park. We have come to realize that it is a very popular fixture in many places around here.

We couldn't pass...... up and up we went. At the top there was a coffee shop. Once again....couldn't pass.

We enjoyed a tasty lunch at the top. Homemade peanut butter and bread. Chels is quite the chief even in the outdoors.

A peek in the direction of the ocean.

Another hike took us to some nice falls.

The next day we took a bus to "Inner Seoraksan". Another portion of the park with phenomenal rock cairans.

We contributed to the multitude and built one of our own.

More hiking, more beauty. The trip was a great escape from the norm. Who can pass up an invitation to the great outdoors.

A hermitage as the map called it. It was a monk village tucked away.

Being here in Korea for a while has given us the opportunity to explore more that we could ever have in a month of vacation.