Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yeon Cheon Herb Festival trip

I guess a good place to visit next would be a weekend trip Claire and I went on. There are a ton of websites and groups set up for expats (aka foreigners) and there are commonly weekend trips available to go on. So far I've only been on one since its been winter and the weekend ski trips are a bit out of my budget. Back in October, Clarie and I elected to join a group that had a variety of activities to do for only $50. Of course, the night before we left, we went out for one of our co-workers going away party. Needless to say, we were a bit tired the next morning since we had to be at the bus downtown at 8 or 9 in the morning. Anyone that knows me will realize that in general this would sadly be a struggle for my night owl tendencies. Plus, keep in mind that we also had a bit of a journey time just to get to downtown. In classic fail style, I had set my alarm for PM rather than AM almost causing us to be late! with a little bit of panic and rushing, we made it to the bus on time.
Choe Mu-Seon Science Museum
 Our first stop along the way was the Choe Mu-Seon Science Museum. I must admit to have disappointment in the stop. There was very little to see for science exhibits and what there was to see had little interactive learning, thus leaving us to stare blankly at the Korean characters near some sort of picture or display. We were only given a 1/2 hour to wander around there, which I think everyone found to be more than enough.

The next stop on our journey was yet again a little disappointing....the Yeong Cheon Wine School. Basically we walked in and looked at some bottles of wine in a wine cellar. We were starting to get a little worried at this point, but still had hope that the trip would take a turn for a better. We were pretty sure that at this point they had jut chosen some free locations to bring us so they could beef up their list of things people do on the trip. I suppose at this point I will also add in that at every location we seemed to have a paparazzi fallowing of cameras. It was slightly humorous and slightly annoying. We had to hold up a banner and smile for pictures at every location. If the location was boring they would actually say to us "try and look like you're having fun!".

After the wine school things started to look a little up. Our next stop was to a vineyard where we got to walk through the rows of plants and clip our own grapes. Later in the day, we stopped at another science museum and they had an outdoor area set up for us so we could crush our grapes and begin the process of making our own wine. I will fully admit that my wine adventure was not a full success. I clipped, I squished, I mixed....theeeen a whole lotta nothing. This is quite a lengthy process people and not one that I particularly fallowed the directions on. There were proper times to remove the lid, put it back on, stir it, strain it, bottle it....yeah, it just wasn't gunna happen. Basically I created a nice home for some fruit flies for a bit and then tossed said bucket out with the trash. Ya win some, ya loose some. Besides, I'm not a fan of red wine anyways so in all reality I just woulda used it to torture my friends with some terrible homemade wine and, trust me, no one would have appreciated that! :P

Also at an art museum, we stopped for a meal chopped full of authentic Korean cuisine....did I fail to mention that it was all Korean food?! well, it was, so there were many of us that were eating rather light for a couple days. If ya don't like spice, well, there's no good or funny saying I can think of, so just generally, if you don't like spice you won't have a lot to eat here. That's pretty much all there is to it!

So let's recap so far: Science museum, wine school, museum, and here we are at science museum number 2 I guess. This was rather fun. We got to use giant telescopes to look at the sun! Wait, I'm not suppose to stare at the sun you say?! Pish posh! we did! Well, sorta. We all walked into a room and the roof retracted revealing the scenery pictured at the left. This science museum also housed one of the largest telescopes in...the world? korea?...I can't remember, but it was big. Minor fail----we were there in the day so we couldn't really see a lot. Oh well. We also went into a room which had a crazy screen that is round (sooorta like the IMAX) and the chairs are mechanical and move into a flat position. In classic Polish style, I had been sitting with my legs UP when the chairs moved and therefore got stuck in a rather awkward position....but that's just kinda how I roll :P The chairs also move as the video does so in one of the shows we really felt like we were on a roller coaster in outer space!

Next was a lovely hike! ==================>
There's not a whole lot to tell about here. Se came, we saw, we concurred! It was a beautiful hike with beautiful scenery...and we saw a Korean cow! :D

After the hike, it was off for some more Korean food for dinner and then "bed". For the people that refuse to eat Korean food (I'm not one of them), we stopped at a store....that place was cleaned out of  Pringles faster than you could blink! At our cabins, we also slept Korean style. What does this mean you may ask?! No beds! That's right folks. We were rockin the floor as the Korean folks do. Not my best night sleeping ever, but as my mom would say, I'm young, I can handle it. We also hung out with some people we'd met on the trip. It was once girl's birthday, hence the cake.

The next day was the real action day!! The one I'd been waiting for and the whole reason I wanted to go on the trip! ATV's, kayaking and horseback riding!!!

The ATV's were fun but a little bit limiting from what I would have liked. There was a guide showing us where to go, which was fine, but we were kind of operating on the idea of you are only as fast as your weakest link, so we had to do a lot of waiting for the girl that was in front of Claire in the line. As I had previously mentioned, there was a lot of paparazzi feel to this trip as well. At one point, I rode my ATV around a corner and there was a guy with a camera in the bushes waiting for an action shot. Rather funny actually!
The Kayaking was fun, though we got a little wet and it was a little chilly, but hey, I'm a Minnesotan girl, I can handle it :) The horseback riding was also a little disappointing. We had been told we would be able to free ride the horses but we were actually stuck walking in circles with them. Either way, I was elated to be around the horses, even if it was a pitiful ride and only being able to see them in their stalls.

As our journey was winding down to an end, we went to the Yeon Cheon Herb Festival. They wanted 20 of us to go on stage to participate in and herb wrapping competition. It was kind of a publicity stunt type deal, but I went along with it and went up on stage. It was rather intense...NOT! we had so many minutes to wrap ginseng into bundles and the person that was the closest to 300 grams won. Before we started the competition, they interviewed some of us. It was HILARIOUS! The camera guy was completely in one guys face (pictured below). So what did the winner of this competition win you may ask?!....a GIANT box of ginseng! woooooooo. ha ha For participating I got to keep my bundle of herbs, which I ended up giving some to Meghann and some to Tony. It was a fun experience though.
All in all, this trip had its lame parts to it, but overall I was pretty happy with the experience. I got to meet some fun people on the trip, had some great laughs, and see some new parts of Korea. There's lots of groups that plan trips like these all the time, so I'll definitely be doing some more along the way. So I'm caught up to October, almost. Couple more trips and some school day photos. I suppose I'm lucky that not a lot happened during the colder months or I'd be WAY behind on my blogs. :D Hope you all enjoyed some pictures and some stories. More to come!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

But I digress...

I title this blog in the name of irony for this blog has no real topic to digress from. I suppose in some manner it is a compilation of digressions that could occur had I chosen a topic. So here we go on a random journey of stories and pictures….
Actually, first I think I must rewind to the beginning of things and start with a quote. I’ll explain…. If you’ve known me for some time, then you know I’ve changed a lot in the last few years. I dare say in my younger years I was a shy and timid person. The unknown was far to stressful, to the point that I cried at my going away party when I moved a mere 2 hours away for college. Overtime and with experience, my strength has grown exponentially. When the time came put on my cap and gown and pass the threshold to the next chapter of my life, I went forth with a quote in  mind…
“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon
With this idea in mind that I was no longer had to the person I had once been, I set forth on this adventure with the goals of meeting many amazing people and seeing amazing things. I guess to fallow the idea of digression, I’ll also throw in a piece I wrote when I was still at home….
August 2, 2011: I searched for quite some time tonight to find a quote that best represents my upcoming endeavors [[here I must add that it is way too clear that I like quotes ha ha]], but all that could properly seem to fit is a song that has kept me in high spirits for the last 3 years. The song is by The Daylights called “Little Girl”===>”Don’t back down little girl, cause you’re gunna be alright. Step on out, it’s a wide wide world, and you’re gunna be alright. You’re a star, you’ll do fine, and you’re gunna be alright”
Once upon a time I was scare to leave home and this song helped me realize how small I was living. An attempt to leave the only town I’d ever known seemed beyond my abilities. Of course, if someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would even pass high school I’d say they were lying. If 5 years ago, someone would have told me I would have gone to Australia for a summer, I’d say they needed a brain check. So I suppose they fact that I’m leaving the country shouldn’t surprise me in this ever evolving life.
I find that no matter how much we want to plan our lives, it proves to be impossible. The unexpected will always happen. We will plan, try, fail, and pick ourselves up on a new path. We will meet people that will inspire us. We will always encounter a challenge that will change our reality as we knew it. So the best thing I’ve come to learn is to expect the unexpected. So forward I go into something so unknown and so unexpected of what I had planned for my life. I guess I’ve found myself on some sort of proverbial quest to discover everything I can about myself and the world.
We must always remember where we sprouted from….the family that taught you the basics of life and began the seed of what we are to become. The friends that laughed with us, cried with us, and joined us in the crazy situations of youth. We must always remember where home is and appreciate the safety of it, as well as the fact that they all love you enough to smile as they watch you go.
I’m not sure what lies ahead of me….great memories, hard times, love, adventure….I can’t tell you exactly what I shall do, but I can tell you that I want to do everything that I never thought I could. I want to push myself as hard as I can since I firmly believe that the best way to become the strongest person we can be is to be knocked down, challenged, and then pick ourselves up and rebuild with stronger material.
So 3 weeks and 8 hours from now the journey begins. At the heart I’m a writer, a passion that I have slowly forgotten I loved, so my goal is to write for my whole excursion. Maybe I’ll write once a day, and maybe I’ll sometimes forget for a couple weeks, I just don’t ever want to forget where I began in this, what I did during, and proudly (hopefully) seeing the person I have grown into at the end.
====>I added this in partially because it’s nice to remember where I started 6 months ago and partially to somehow express my intentions when coming into this. I wish there was a way to display the changes I’ve implemented since I’ve been here, but I can’t. Perhaps my word is enough, perhaps the pictures I’m going to post in this will show it, or perhaps it just can’t be grasped by anyone but myself. I apologize for the longevity of this blog since it has yet to have anything to do with Korea so far, but here I will begin the tales…..
Susong-gu Lake
So my journey to be outgoing was truly tested for the first time on a Friday night. My fellow newbie co-workers and I were suppose to go visit my friend, Tim, who is from the other school. At the last minute, all three of the people going with me backed out of the night. I would likely say my old self would have claimed defeat and ventured home for a quiet night, but my new ambition drove me forward. So I got on the subway, found a bus I’d never been on and walked down streets I’ve never seen before and found my way to the roof top gathering. Not 20 minutes after I arrived, the neighbor was upset with us being on the roof….right, seems to be about my luck ha ha but it turned out to be a great thing. We hiked ourselves, our blankets and our munchies to the lake down the street. I also forgot to add that in this group of about 25 people, I knew only 1. This was also part of my adventure….and what a great adventure it was! I met some wonderful friends that night, both foreign and Korean.
The lovely Sienna, June and myself
The most memorable and the one I see the most is the lovely Sienna. Such a kind heart! I also met some more colorful characters, such as Bok…”my name is Bok! B as in boy, A as in apple, K as in KOREA!” Everyone was so friendly and so fun. This was true proof that my new take on life was going to be a lucrative one.
So there we sat by the lake. I think my favorite part of the evening was our semi-cheesy yet wonderful sing-a-long. Both Tim and Holly are wonderful guitar players and as they strummed the guitars we all sang with. Perhaps not perfectly, perhaps we sounded foolish at times and forgot the words, but no one seemed to mind. I think it came across as clumsy perfection in a way. We had a crowd of Koreans standing around us listening for the longest time.
In addition to the music festivities, Tim also busted out his long board for some evening fun. This night had produced some great memories and definitely was far more fun than I had anticipated. And so began my ever changing group of friends….
Another frequent past time of my friends an I is a place called Sugar Joe’s.  A few months back, Tim and Holly had attended open mic night at Sugar Joe’s and they had asked Tim to do semi-regular gigs there. Its a rather chill place. Couches, darts, a stage….it has a rather hippie-esk feel to it. The owners are a wonderful couple that both speak excellent English since the husband is a foreigner (the wife being Korean). Tim’s song selection is a highly amusing array that includes songs such as “Horse with no Name”, Adele , “Wonderwall” , and “I want it that way” by the Backstreet boys. The owner sometimes joins him on stage at the end and they have a free style session which is always wonderful.
Lately the activities have been a little mellow. Several people have left and new teachers have come in. I’m sad to say my fellow nouribang (karoke) enthusiasts are gone :( and I find myself home a bit more on the weekends…rather this is a bit more by choice so I can save some money. The friend I’ve been hanging out with the most lately has been Kat. She is from the UK and is an in your face type personality. I’ve had some of my most hysterical moments with that lady! We’ve been going to a free Taekwondo class twice a week, though that has been put on hold due to an increased schedule for January. She also has recently moved….all the horror stories that my mom and I were concerned about when I came here, well my poor friend Kat unfortunately had to endure every one of those bad experiences. Last week, she went into work and her co-teacher told her the school was closing that week! Very long story short, her boss had given her poor accomidations, treated her poorly and now was messing with her contract to try and get money to transfer her to another school. I am very happy to say she is settled into her new apartment and is in a school she seems very hopeful about!
Well this is getting long and my random stories are fading from mind as I get more and more sleepy. So I shale give a few more pictures then say goodnight….
Kat and me
Brad, Hyuna and Kaitlin (Brad is being weird as usual)
"The Tim" in Korean for his show

An attempt at not failing to keep a blog in Korea!

Yep. Truth be told, I’m sucking it up at keeping a blog going. I’m here, working on my 4th month mile marker and I haven’t written since my first month. FAIL to me! So forgive me as I try and backtrack my memory a few months and catch up. Hopefully I can retain the highlighted memories and experiences….even more hopeful is the idea that I will keep up with it from this point forward!
So where to start, where to start?! I’ll focus on the order of my pictures.. so lets begin the walk through memory lane by introducing my favorite place to eat…Handsome Fish! Like all amazing things in life (e.g. sunset, perfect moments, the beauty of a fresh snowfall) a picture just can’t do the meal justice! We usually get some beef tips which is served with an unlimited supply of an eggs and chives mixture cooked on one side and melted mozzarella on the other. To top it off, you get a bowl of sweet onions which is located in a lovely mild brothy mixture to dip everything in. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! Yeah, I may hype it up a bit much, but anyone I’ve brought there has left agreeing with me that it’s great. Also, please keep in mind, that this is all cooked at your table, which is always a unique experience (at least for back home). Claire, Jeremy, Rebecca and I have made semi-annual trips here.
   In addition to my meal time adventures, there’s another thing that has grown a prominent role in my groups activities….video games. It all began one fateful day when a random couple of foreigners I’d met once or twice decided to invite me along for a wii-bang adventure. Perhaps they thought it’d be nice. Maybe they though it’d be fun to mess with the new girl and see if she could handle their odd sarcasm which was spiked with their sometimes slightly evil sense of humor (love you guys!). Either way, the root of where it all began seems irrelevant if you can enjoy the fruits of what has grown from it. ((cheesy metaphor eh? ha ha)). So Wii-bang and Xbox adventures is next on the list I suppose….
Brad at the Wii-bang
Xbox night at my place
Xbox at Nick's
I’d dare to say these three pictures a a good representation of a lot of evenings. My place has been known to house a fair number of hangouts, though the television quality is sorely lacking! However, Nick has a lovely large screen and multiple couches, so we have been known to cram ourselves together at his place as well. I’ve had some amazing laughs with these people!!! Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, FIFA, Streets of Rage….not what I thought I’d move half way around the world to do, but hey, it’s cheap, its fun, and (at the moment) it’s a bit chilly, so I have no complaints here :)
Let’s drop the next journey into the world of randomness. More specifically, lets focus on all the moments you thought you were going to get one thing, but received the (frequently unwanted) surprise of something else. This doesn’t happen SO much these days. I’ve kind of developed a routine of sorts where I know what I like and don’t like, but there are always those occasions when you develop a brain fart and end up with, well, exhibit A: The Mystery Egg! ======>  Young, unsuspecting woman enters convenience store looking for eggs. More specifically, eggs she could hard boil for dinner. Woman buys eggs from said convenience store. Boils eggs. Prepares dinner. Little does she know a “special” egg has made its way into her life. Brown. Rubbery. Solid like. Though the brave soul has been attempting to expand her taste buds, this is one egg experience that could just not be concurred. ***For those suspicious of the fact that it had already been hard-boiled when purchased, I assure you, it is not the case. It has been confirmed that this was indeed a “special” egg by a Korean!
~~As well in this confusing story, how can this adventurer eat chicken feet yet not a brown egg?! the world may never know~~
To add to the unknown, we will apply exhibit B to the situation: Chocolatey goodness crispy treat that looks like the possible evidence of a bowel movement==========> That’s right people, this is not a picture of me with poop on my leg, this is an honest to God snack. Needless to say, having never seen this snack before, I became a smidge frightened when someone handed me one! I also assure you that it is quite tasty and delicious!
I think the final mini-adventure I will leave this blog with is the trip to the market. Claire and I set out for a Sunday romp to explore one of the many markets in Korea. We expected a lot of what we saw, though to actually see some of these things in real life is shocking. I look forward to exploring larger markets as well. Traditional Korean items are available and when we had gone to this market, my wallet had been quite dry since this was the week before we got our first paycheck!

This set of pictures includes the notorious chicken feet, Claire in one of the mainly streets of the market, and finally Octopus….a little different from when I had to dissect in bio class!
 Here we have the gormet silk bugs. I have yet to try one of these little morsels, though Claire and several other people have graced me with the knowledge that they aren’t very good. Shocking, I know. Someday though, who knows. Then there is the ever prominent dried fish…all shapes and sizes! On the bottom we have the two that I voted most disturbing…as for the pig head, it took me quite some time to truly convince myself that this was a REAL pig head. They look so plastic and so happy! There are a ton of these on the “pork street”. Finally, the all to well known dog meat. Yep, gross I know. I have mixed feelings on this…at one point I had made it a goal to try dog meat. Why deny a cultural experience simply because my own deems it wrong. Sorry to all of you that think I am so wrong an such a bad person, but please realize this is not your dog fluffy, buddy, or whatever other dog styled name it has…I agree it is sad, but on the same hand, I think cows and pigs are super cute as well. If I think about that aspect I find it difficult to eat meat. I’m sure my mom can verify this fact for you….I have a hard time eating meat! So again, I’m trying to experience a culture, even if it is trying something once and having a hard time with my own ethnocentric tendencies. Though to top off this internal debate, I recently heard that they strangle and beat the dog as they kill it…something about how the meat tastes. This is something I will need to research. I will not eat something that was so inhumanely killed…believe me, I could turn this into some animal rights argument that I have with myself so frequently, but that is not the point to this. So I’m going to stop at that bit of debate.
ANYWAYS….I hope this blog sums up a lot of aspects of the things I’ve experienced thus far. There is still lots to come, and I hope I keep chugging away to get it caught up and continued. Off the top of my head, I also have to write one about the visit to Suseong lake, Busan/water temple weekend, as well as my general experiences at work. So much to write about!
~~Don’t pursue happiness, create it!~~

Let me introduce you to my daily bubble…

So I’m still workin on catching up my blog with my adventures thus far. So I guess  now would be a good time to fill everyone in on my little corner of the world….Daegu is a booming city that has a rather large population. I’ve heard everywhere from 2.5-4 million people, but ya know the difference in opinion is so small that it’s like pocket change :P My stomping grounds are in the Siji area. Now this may sound so confusing…many people back home say “I thought you were living in Daegu city?!” well it’s a little diff here. I had thought that the city was no big deal…”oh look, I’m so close to downtown!” NOT. Daegu is just a smidge bigger than a city back home (sarcasm kids, sarcasm!). So Siji is like saying the city and Daegu is more like the state, there’s just different terms here. For example, on my Tuesday and Thursdays I work at other schools on the other side of Daegu and that is a 40 minute subway ride. So ANYWAYS, I believe I’m rambling and not sure if I’m making a coherant sentences.
I was finally able to get into my apartment after training. My very own place!!! I’m sure that if any of you are, or speak to my parents, they can attest to the fact that though there is love for our family, me living in the basement was a challenge for all. Now, I have my own little bubble and they have their downstairs back! :)
I live in a three level building above a restaraunt. There are 2 of my co-teachers that also live in the building and my other co-teachers are near by. This is definitely the are for foreigners to live. I see new people every week and have made a fair number of friends in the area.
My pictures that I’ve posted were taken during my moving in process so they aren’t totally accurate. Some areas are cleaner and on the other end of the spectrum there is always the standard “Anna pile” that seems to develope where ever I reside (there is a handful of you that can understand this oddity that fallows me around). There is a classy yellow floor that always makes me want to be ill, but I guess it’s not forever so I’ll deal. There is also a large collection of wall decor that has been edited over time. I’ve been pulling some down, putting some up, and looking to add my own touch of art eventually.
In the far left picture, you can see the small seperate rooms in my place. The left is the bathroom and the right is a kitchen. The bathrooms in Korea, for those that don’t know, have a unique charm to them….no shower stall! There is a hand shower that is attached to the sink. I was truely thankful that my can at least be mounted on the wall, which is more than I can say for all bathrooms here.  Another interesting tid-bit about the rooms here is that it is standard for the floors to be heated. That should be a nice thing in the cold months, as anyone from my homestate or equivelant can understand, a cold floor is the worst! The windows make me a smidge uncomfortable…their idea of privacy is frosted windows, though there are also a line design in them, so I’m not feeling all to confident in the privacy factor.
My kitchen…AHHHH my kitchen. What to say….When living in Kato, Tony and I did a lot of cooking and always commented on the difficulties of a small kitchen and limited counter space….this is well worse! As many of you know, I love to cook so a mini fridge, no oven, and no counter space is sort of a torturous situation, but I’m surviving. I’m thinking some furniture re-arranging could be some problem solving (desk in kitchen) as well as the purchase of a toaster oven.
Before arriving here, I’d read that Daegu may be a big city, but has a small town feel. I’d definitely agree to that opinion, at least in my area. Other parts of Daegu are a bit, how can I put this nicely….I can’t, parts are dirty and nasty!
A park that I walk through to get to the downtown Siji area
There is a run of parks near my place that is between my living location and the area I work in and do my shopping, eating, and hanging out time in. There is a bunch of parks that look the same one after another, so it may feel like an infinite walk at times.
The square in Siji
There is a lovely city square area that people hang out in. There is a fountain on the warmer days for kids to play in, basketball courts, sitting areas and is surrounded by a large numer of amazing food places and small shops. This place is always occupied with people whether it is small children laughing and romping in the water or adults throwing back a mildly chilled beer and relaxing at night.
Majority of our shopping takes place at E-Mart, which is generally equivilant to a giant walmart or just generally a small mall. Every time I’ve asked someone where to get something, the answer is E-mart. The store may look like it goes up, but ironically you have to go down to enter the other levels. Sadly, the food is all the way down to the 3rd floor, so running in quickly to grab something is a bit of an adventure. There is also a costco and many Home Plus stores (similar to E-mart) in the area. These also supply some western type foods, though I am desperately lacking some Ranch and some foods, such as honey, syrup and peanut butter have some rediculous prices!
In our poor people excursions, we’ve done a lot of walking around to explore the main areas of Daegu. The downtown area (which I’m lacking pictures of) is a booming shopping area during the day, and a chaotic night scene during the night. That area definitely has A LOT more shops and has more of a city feel to it. I have discovered the presence of Quiznos and Cold Stone, which totally brightened my day…though I was sad to discover they have not acquired the same taste or flavors here….Quiznos has no classic club, which is my fav, and Cold Stone lacks the cookie doughtchya want some AND cake batter ice cream. Sadness overcame me when this reality hit. But alas, that is about the general sum of the area I spend my days in. I’ll be getting paid soon and so expect some more adventure type blogs in the near future….this weekend I’ll be going on a small trip with horseback riding, kayaking, ATV’s, star observatory, herb festival, and a cabin in the mountains and I am also planning an amazing trip to Busan to see a georgous temple on the shore with my friends in October!
Walk to my Thursday school
View at my Thursday school
Some Korean flowers

Subway near my school and my work is across the street
Rebecca demonstrating some workout equipement in the city square