Archive for November, 2010


Every day in November, I want to write down three things I am grateful for.  I feel a strong need to cultivate gratitude in my life, to improve my outlook on life.  I’m trying to appreciate the small moments of happiness I have here in Korea.  So sad to miss Thanksgiving and my family in the U.S.A. 😦

Monday, November 1: 1) I am thankful for Korean hospitals.  I went to the bone hospital where the same doctor was there who I saw last week, thus saving me from the excruciating situation of having to communicate without knowing the language.  I had an hour + of physical therapy on my left knee and got some anti-inflammatories for less than 10,000 won ($9).  In addition, there was no wait whatsoever. 2) I am thankful that the bus from Chojeon to Seongju arrived at exactly 5:00 (this never happens!) so I was able to catch the 5:10 bus to Daegu.  3) I am thankful to have spoken briefly to one of my Turkish friends online.

grateful for gorgeous fall trees

grateful for gorgeous fall trees

Tuesday, November 2: 1) I’m thankful for the cleaning lady recommended by a Keimyung University professor.  She gave my apartment a nice deep cleaning this evening! 2) I’m thankful for Anna, who picked me up some feta cheese from Costco.   She remembered I loved it in Turkey. 3) I’m thankful for finding a good little market near Anna & Seth’s house that has a good selection of fruits & vegetables.

grateful for gingko trees and friends in korea

grateful for gingko trees and friends in korea

Wednesday, November 3: I’m grateful for… 1) Kim Dong Hee, who “accompanied” me on my bus ride to Seongju and waited with me at the bus terminal for 20 minutes; 2) talking by Skype to my best friend, Jayne, for over an hour tonight;  3) my delicious dinner of shrimp, pasta, capers, Korean pumpkin, green pepper & garlic.

Thursday, November 4: I’m having a hard time finding anything to be grateful for today:-(  I had a really hard commute this morning.  I arrived at Seongju 2 minutes too late to catch the bus to Byeokjin and had to wait 40 minutes for the next bus.  I tried to call Kim countless times and she didn’t answer.  So, today, simply grateful to be alive.  Grateful for beautiful weather.  Grateful to have  roof over my head.

Friday, November 5: 1) Grateful to meet David on the EPIK trip at dinner tonight.  He asked what my struggles were here in Korea, and I said loneliness.  He is Korean-American but hates it here in Korea because he feels like he’s an outcast among Koreans.  He had hoped to discover his heritage here.  We had a great conversation about religion.  He’s a strong Christian and feels the beauty of Christianity is God’s love for us.  2) Grateful for a fun game of Farkle in our hotel room and meeting some fun new people.  3) Grateful that I won the game… good luck all around!

thankful for more glorious gingko trees

thankful for more glorious gingko trees

Saturday, November 6: 1) I’m grateful for the beautiful fall colors we saw at Naesosa Temple.  2) Grateful to meet DeAnne from North Carolina.  She’s full of positive energy and enthusiasm, really cool! 3) Grateful for the walk through Mai-san provincial park, even though I didn’t get to see the Tap-Sa temple because of a miscommunication about the time we were required to be back to the bus.

Sunday, November 7: 1) I’m grateful for a whole day relaxing in my apartment; I didn’t set foot outside all day.  2) Grateful for time alone to write.  3) Grateful for talking on Skype to Mike and having him consider the possibility of paying for Alex to come visit me in December.

Monday, November 8: 1) Grateful for Louise’s birthday.  2) Grateful for a lovely Indian dinner with a new Pakistani friend I met randomly at Banwoldang subway stop two Sundays ago.  3) Grateful for getting my Lonely Planet Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & the Greater Mekong book, along with a book called Catfish and Mandala that I ordered from What the Book today.

Tuesday, November 9:  1) Grateful for another physical therapy session on my left knee that felt really great and relaxing.  2) Grateful for an unusual evening with my Pakistani friend, having pizza and beers.  3) Grateful that it’s not freezing cold yet since Chojeon doesn’t turn on the heat.

Wednesday, November 10: 1) Grateful that I went to Byeokjin today and rode the later #250 bus.  The one I usually ride to Chojeon on M, T & F was in an accident.  We passed it along the way.  Whew!  2) Grateful for Kim, who heard about the bus accident and tried to phone me several times to check on me. Also grateful that I had to teach a total of only 20 minutes today because of student testing.  3) Grateful for Anna and Seth and their hosting of another great game of Ticket to Ride at their cozy apartment (despite the fact I didn’t win…).

thankful for another fun game of Ticket to Ride

thankful for another fun game of Ticket to Ride

Thursday, November 11: Grateful for… 1) the 2 Pepero sticks that my vice principal gave me in celebration of Pepero day~ even though I think you’re supposed to get 4 sticks! (11/11);  2) U.S. veterans;  3) a nice quiet night at home to read, plan my trip to Vietnam & Cambodia, and watch a movie.

Friday, November 12: I’m grateful for: 1) ever-patient Kim who insisted on accompanying me to the skin doctor for an allergic reaction I had to medicine for my knee; 2) a fun time eating pasta and drinking red wine with her at the Italian restaurant near my apartment; and 3) going to see the movie about Vietnam called Indochine.

Saturday, November 13: Grateful for 1) what would be Mike’s and my 22nd anniversary and all the years we spent together; 2) a trip to Seoul where I went to Cheonggye-Cheon Stream and found by chance the stream brightened by lanterns for the lantern festival; 3) for a fun evening drinking beers and hanging out with a friend.

thankful for the unexpected surprise of finding a lantern festival in seoul

thankful for the unexpected surprise of finding a lantern festival in seoul

Sunday, November 14: Grateful for 1) getting to browse in What the Book, an English bookstore in Itaewon; 2) chicken schwarma in the Arab section of Itaewon (brought back happy memories of Turkey); and 3) a beautiful day wandering around the Korean War Memorial Museum.

grateful to see the war memorial museum in seoul

grateful to see the war memorial museum in seoul

Monday, November 15: Grateful… 1) that I booked my tickets today from Seoul to Hanoi, then from Siem Reap back to Seoul: January 13-24; 2) that I had time to read up on Vietnam and Cambodia and get some good ideas; and 3) that a taxi gave me a ride to Seongju for only 1,000 won so I could catch the 5:10 bus home.

Tuesday, November 16: Grateful 1) that my two 3rd grade classes were canceled today because the little hooligans went to the English Village;  2) for dinner at the warehouse and having leftovers for the next two nights; and 3) that I think I found a good hotel to stay in Hanoi.

Wednesday, November 17: Grateful for 1) getting a ride home from the 6th grade teacher so I got home BEFORE 5:30!! 2) my quiet day at Byeokjin where I got most of my EPIK field trip essay/blog written; and 3) for leftover dinner from the warehouse so I didn’t have to cook!!

Thursday, November 18: Grateful for 1) hmmm… NOT grateful for the irritating fact that it was absolutely impossible to book a ticket online with Vietnam Airlines for a one-way ticket from Hanoi to Phnom Penh for January 19.  I was truly irritable and pissed, but then decided maybe it’s not meant to be and I should look for other options.  I am trying to see it as an unplanned adventure where something amazing might happen.  So am grateful for developing “another” way to look at the situation; 2) watching the movie The Killing Fields about Cambodia that was extremely intense and disturbing but gave me a good understanding of Cambodian history; and 3) a good night’s sleep.

Friday, November 19: I found it hard to be grateful for much early in the day.  I felt a darkness hanging over me from watching The Killing Fields last night, from my unresolved flight problems with Vietnam Airlines,  from the looming and probably lonely weekend coming up with no fun plans.  As I stood at the bus stop in Chojeon, feeling this darkness, I watched the off-balance town drunk, smoking and talking in his raspy voice, and thought “There but for the grace of God go I.”  1) Happy and grateful that I’m not the town drunk; 2) happy to talk to my friend Jarrod on Facebook chat; he has such a great perspective on life and really cheered me up;  3) happy to get my Lonely Planet India guidebook and a book about Vietnam called Paradise for the Blind delivered today.

Saturday, November 20: Grateful for 1) passing a 100 question exam on grammar to FINALLY finish my 120-hour TEFL certification; 2) talking by phone to Jayne today; and 3) having time to read a book about Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge called First They Killed My Father: a daughter of cambodia remembers. Although incredibly disturbing, it’s great to learn about a part of history I really didn’t know much about.

Sunday, November 21: Grateful… 1) to have a nice long conversation on Skype with Jayne.  I love her because she always makes me laugh!  2)… to see the movie The Social Network about Facebook.  It was really interesting that Mark Zuckerberg was so driven and motivated to establish Facebook because of not getting into the top Finals Club at Harvard and losing his girlfriend.  3)… to chat on Skype with my friend Ed from the State Department and to chat by Yahoo with Chetan in Italy.  And even a 4th thing: to be able to go back to sleep for a couple of hours after I woke up, as always, at 6:30 a.m.  I usually can never go back to sleep once I wake up!

Monday, November 22: Grateful… 1) for a free period today at the end of the day because my 4th graders didn’t show up; 2) for a taxi ride from Chojeon for 1,000 won, even though I still arrived in Seongju 2 minutes too late for the 5:10 bus; and 3) that I am becoming more discerning about who to have in my life and who not to have.  Today, I made a decision to eliminate certain time-wasting, dishonest and/or self-absorbed people from my life.  It felt so refreshing!

Tuesday, November 23: 1) Thankful that Mike bought the ticket for Alex to come to Korea on December 2-19.  I am so excited about him coming!  2) Grateful to get permission from Byeokjin to take the day off Thursday, December 2, to go to Incheon to pick up Alex from the airport.  3) Here’s HOPING to be thankful that the current tensions between North Korea and South Korea will dissipate very quickly, so the situation doesn’t interfere with Alex coming here to visit.  And 4th) thankful that I am not in Phnom Penh yet, and especially was not at the water festival last night where over 330 people perished in a huge stampede.

Wednesday, November 24: 1) Today I’m grateful for my friends’ and family’s care and concern for me following yesterday’s attack on South Korea by North Korea.  2) I’m thankful for finally finding a decent flight from Hanoi to Phnom Penh through China Southern airlines.  Most of the flights were outrageously expensive and had long layovers in China or Bangkok, so I am happy to now have it booked.  3) Happy to watch the movie called Outsourced and get psyched about my trip to India.  Also… 4) grateful that no one showed up today for my absurd conversation class.  Since no one can really carry on a conversation, I have such a hard time keeping the class interested and on task.  Thus, I always dread it….  (I’m NOT grateful that Coffee-J told me today that I must have the “Residency Certificate” from the U.S. IRS by December 15 or they must collect over $1,000 in taxes from me!  Though Mike filed the form with the IRS requesting this, we still have heard nothing.  Where is it? This is money I need for my trip to Vietnam!!)

Thursday, November 25: 1) Grateful that it’s Thanksgiving Day in America (even though I’m not there to celebrate it), reminding me to be grateful for all the good things I have in life.  2) Happy to know Sarah is with her dad, Kema, Nick and Cody and that the boys are with their dad and grandmother and aunt.  3) Happy for Kim Dong Hee, my ever-faithful Korean friend, who went with me for dinner and wine at a pasta restaurant  to help me celebrate Thanksgiving and then accompanied me to see the movie Sex and the City 2 which was set partially in Abu Dhabi and made me yearn for the Middle East.

books to get me in the frame of mind for the mekong

books to get me in the frame of mind for the mekong

Friday, November 26: 1) Grateful that my classes went well today, not too stressful for a change.  2) Grateful to know my kids are having a good Thanksgiving at home in the USA.  3) Grateful to have finally started the process of getting my visa for Vietnam.  I can’t believe it costs 105,000 won, not as much as China’s 210,000 won visa but still outrageous!  Do all Asian countries hate Americans?  I think lovely Cambodia is only $20.

Saturday, November 27: Thankful for 1) watching the documentary The Secret, which gave me a lot of food for thought; 2) a fun evening having dinner and doing noraebang with a Korean friend who came to visit from Seoul; and 3) a fun conversation online with a young guy from India who got me all psyched about my upcoming trip to India.

Sunday, November 28: 1) Thankful for being able to sleep in till 8 a.m.!  2) Grateful for watching a good movie: The Kids are All Right.  3) Thankful to talk to Mike by Skype about Alex’s upcoming visit.

getting geared up for india

getting geared up for india

Monday, November 29: 1)  I so adore Korean hospitals!  I went tonight to get some physical therapy on my shoulder which is so painful, mainly due to tension.  I got an hour of heat and electric therapy, a chiropractic neck crack and a short but intense massage.  All for less than $5!  2) Grateful for a long talk with a friend in India.  3) Grateful for a so-relaxing sleep…..

Tuesday, November 30: Grateful for  1) my sister Joan’s birthday; 2) figuring out how to apply online for the Cambodian visa for $25 so I don’t have to pay the travel agent 95,000 won to get the visa for me!  3) the fact that I’ve officially completed 9 months here and only have 3 more months to go!  In December, Alex will be here for 17 days; in January, I will be in Vietnam & Cambodia for 12 days; and in February we have the lunar new year holiday.  Time is ticking down.  Thankful beyond belief for that… 🙂

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010: In the second worrisome incident since my arrival in Korea in February 2010, North Korea fired artillery shells at South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing two soldiers, wounding 17, and hurting 3 civilians.  The South fired back and sent a fighter jet to the area.

The two Koreas are still technically at war — the Korean War ended only with a truce — and tension rose sharply in March of this year after Seoul accused the North of torpedoing one of its navy vessels, killing 46 sailors.  North Korea said its wealthy neighbor started the fight.

Once again, as back in March, when I questioned my Korean colleagues about whether I should be worried about this attack, they shrugged off my concerns and said it was just more posturing by the North Koreans.  I wasn’t really worried for myself, although earlier in the summer I had read in the book The Surrendered about the horrifying country-wide upheaval experienced during the Korean War.  However, I was worried because my son Alex was due to arrive in Seoul on December 2.  I experienced a great deal of anxiety about bringing him into the midst of a potentially dangerous situation.  While my Korean colleagues were going about their daily lives, unconcerned by the turn of events, I was losing sleep over whether or not we should cancel Alex’s upcoming trip.  I had been really looking forward to his visit and I wanted him to come, but if there was any danger of a full-out war erupting, I didn’t want him to come, obviously.  I decided to wait it out and we could always just cancel at the last-minute if necessary.

At the beginning of the week when Alex was due to arrive, the U.S. and South Korea began another set of military drills, despite warnings from the South’s  northern neighbor that it would attack if such drills were conducted.  I for one was holding my breath in fear that North Korea would attack during the joint drills.  The drills ended a day or two before Alex was due to arrive without incident.  I took the bus to Incheon to pick him up, all the time, worried that war would break out at any minute.

Friends back home were writing to me on Facebook asking me if I was planning to leave the country.  Again, for some bizarre reason, I wasn’t worried about myself and I had no intention of breaking my contract.  The whole reason I came to Korea was to get one year of teaching experience in a foreign country so that I could go next to the Middle East.  I wasn’t about to derail my plans.  Although I did hear some English teachers did leave the peninsula during these problems, most of us just stayed put, believing the North was full of its usual bluster.  It turned out this time that we were right.  Alex did in fact end up coming and nothing else happened with North Korea for the duration of my stay.  I wonder though if it’s just a matter of time.  South Korea has everything to lose in such a confrontation and North has much to gain.  I can’t help but worry about my South Korean friends, colleagues and students, along with my fellow English teachers.

Sunday, November 14:  This morning, I slept in a bit and then went to meet Mithad in Itaewon.  First we went to my favorite Western bookstore in Korea, What the Book.  We went to my favorite Turkish restaurant for schwarma.  Then Mithad’s friend Ayman met up with us and we visited the War Memorial of Korea.

Entrance to the War Memorial of Korea

Entrance to the War Memorial of Korea

The Korean Infantry at one time had their headquarters on the grounds of the War Memorial of Korea.  This is the largest memorial of its kind in the world, according to Official Site of Korea Tourism: The War Memorial of Korea.

huge sculpture in front of the museum

huge sculpture in front of the museum

Huge statues of soldiers from Korea's wars

Huge statues of soldiers from Korea’s wars

Statues of soldiers

Statues of soldiers

You can see the size of these by comparing them to me

You can see the size of these by comparing them to me

me under the hand of a soldier

me under the hand of a soldier

Before going inside the museum, we spend some time exploring the displays of different weapons and military equipment outside the building.  Around 110 pieces of large military equipment/symbols are on display. They include Korean War sculptures, the Statue of Brethren, the Statue of King Gwanggaeto, AH-2, T-34 of the North, US B-52 and others.

Flags lining the pathway

Flags lining the pathway

Military equipment

Military equipment

Battleship

Battleship

Bomber

Bomber

Tanks

Tanks

Plane

Plane

Me with a plane

Me with a plane

Mithad and me on the battleship

Mithad and me on the battleship

more military equipment

more military equipment

Exhibits inside the building display equipment used during the Korean War in such a way as to invite comparison between the items. Large weaponry and equipment used by different countries during World War II and the Vietnam War are also on display. In the Large Equipment Exhibit on the second floor, many kinds of defense industry equipment and both real and model weapons are displayed. In the Bangsan Equipment Exhibit, you can look at weapons and war equipment produced in Korea. In the War Memorial’s Storage Room, 17,800 files and artifacts of war are preserved. Modern damage control and prevention devices have been installed to keep these materials safe from harm (Official Site of Korea Tourism: The War Memorial of Korea).

on the grounds of the museum

on the grounds of the museum

the museum

the museum

another statue on the grouns

another statue on the grounds

* Memorial Hall
This an exhibition hall dedicated to the memory of patriots involved in past war efforts. The place presents sculptures, reliefs, and wall paintings under the theme of overcoming hardship, and working towards the unity, prosperity and eternity of the nation.

large drum inside the museum

large drum inside the museum

inside the museum: don't know what this is, but it looks cool

inside the museum: don’t know what this is, but it looks cool

war paintings

war paintings

me in front of a war painting

me in front of a war painting

* War History
The place features a war history from prehistoric era to the Japanese colonial period. Military remains, relics, and documents are on display as well. Among them are war & victory records, ammunition, the Turtle Ship (and other military vessels from the Joseon Dynasty), fortress models, and more.

old ships

old ships

Mithad and an old ship

Mithad and an old ship

* Korean War
Here, visitors can learn about the background of the Korean War, the progression of the war and how a truce was eventually established. Exhibits also display ammunition used by hostile and friendly forces, information and artifacts from people displaced by the war, and information on major battles.

Korean War diorama

Korean War diorama

Korean War Diorama

Korean War Diorama

After the War Memorial, I parted ways with Mithad and Ayman and headed back to the Rainbow Hotel, where I picked up my bag and took the metro to the train station.  I took the slow train back at 4:43 and arrived in Daegu at 8:30.  I was home in my cozy flat by 9:30.  This is the last time I ever see Mithad.

Saturday, November 13:  This weekend I go to Seoul to see some sights and to visit my Egyptian friend Mithad.  I leave Daegu on the 9:28 slow train and after I arrive in Seoul 4 hours later, I check in at the Rainbow Hotel in Namyoung for 63,000 won.

at the Daegu train station, waiting for the train to Seoul

at the Daegu train station, waiting for the train to Seoul

After I check in, I go out to meet Mithad and we head to Cheonggye-cheon Stream.   According to the Official Site of Korea Tourism, until it was restored in 2005, Cheonggye-cheon Stream existed only as a neglected watercourse hidden by an overpass.

Narae Bridge, expressing a butterfly in flight, and Gwanggyo Bridge, symbolizing the harmony of the past and future, are just two of the more than twenty beautiful bridges that cross the stream. The ‘Rhythmic Wall Stream’, lined with fine marble, sculptures, and Korea’s 8th stone building, Palseokdam, adorn the Cheonggye-cheon Stream.

Today, in addition to the nice walkway along the stream, we are surprised to find there is a lantern festival in progress.  We spend quite a long time walking along and admiring the brightly colored lanterns at the Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival.

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Mithad at the lantern festival

Mithad at the lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

me at the lantern festival

me at the lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

It’s quite cold out, so we find a restaurant where we stop in to have a few beers, warm up and talk.  Mithad goes into a diatribe blaming America for Egypt’s predicament.  I understand America’s culpability for Egypt’s mess,  as I did an extensive research project about just this subject in a paper for my Master’s degree in International Commerce and Policy.  However, I do take issue with America taking all the blame; after all,  corruption within the Egyptian government is also to blame.   He also tells me he believes that the Holocaust never happened and that 9/11 was a manufactured conspiracy.  This infuriates me.  I think our friendship will be coming to an end.

After our drinks, we go out into the cold again until we find an Italian restaurant where we have dinner.  I have one more day in Seoul tomorrow, and I think I will never come to visit Mithad again after this.

Dinner at an Italian restaurant in Seoul

Dinner at an Italian restaurant in Seoul

Today is the 22 year anniversary for Mike and I, but we’ve been separated now for 3 years and 8 months. It makes me sad to think of it.

Saturday, November 6: In the morning, we head out toward the coast to see the Saemangeum Tidal Embankment, a seawall dubbed “The Great Wall on the Sea.”  This is the world’s largest sea dike measuring 33.9 km in length, beating the former largest dike in the Netherlands, the Suiderzee Afsluit.  It was completed in April, 2010 after 18 years and 5 months.

Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

The purpose of the dike was to secure enough arable land to ensure food security for the future.  The reclaimed area is about 2/3 the size of Seoul, about a square meter of new land for every Korean.  The original intent was to allocate 70% of the land for farming and the remaining 30% for industrial use.  Now, with an oversupply of rice, the plan has been changed to give 70% to industrial use, tourism or logistics, and the remaining 30% for agriculture.  A large part will go to tourism, such as casinos and other facilities, which is hoped to bring 8 million tourists by 2012.

the biggest dike in the world

the biggest dike in the world

We walk down to stand over the water as it roars out of the dam.  When one level is higher, they open the gates for 45 minutes and let the water flow out.  It is a quite impressive and powerful flow of water we see bursting from the floodgates.  I walk up to a hill where there is a park and observation area.

a tunnel under Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

a tunnel under Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

Memorial at Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

Memorial at Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

From the embankment, we head south to Buan-gun, a peninsula that juts out into the Yellow Sea.  Within the Byeonsan Peninsula National Park, we walk through a gorgeous scarlet-hued tunnel of fir trees, and then rows of cherry blossom trees, to see Naesosa Temple.  Originally called Soraesa Temple, it means “a place to visit to be reborn.” The weather is cool and crisp and the autumn colors are stunning.  Naesosa was built by a Buddhist monk in 633 A.D. during the Silla Dynasty and rebuilt in 1633 during the Joseon Dynasty.  Daeungbojeon, the main building, is built with interlocking wood blocks without nails.  Each door is decorated with lotus blossoms and chrysanthemums. The temple also boasts the Goryeo Bronze Bell, with three Buddhas on its body, from 1222.  It is thought to be the leading creation of the late Goryereo Dynasty.

me at naeonsa temple

me at naeonsa temple

Korean pancakes

Korean pancakes

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typical Korean restaurant on the way to Naesosa

Naesosa Temple

Naesosa Temple

thankful messages at Noesosa Temple

thankful messages at Noesosa Temple

inside Naesosa Temple

inside Naesosa Temple

The best thing about visiting Naesosa Temple is the setting, with its bright tunnel of trees.  My interest is also piqued because they offer temple stays.

the stunning tunnel of trees at naesosa temple

the stunning tunnel of trees at naesosa temple

Finally, we start our journey west to Daegu, with a stop in Mt. Maisan Provincial Park. Mt. Maisan’s claim to fame is its donkey-ears shape.  A myth tells of  two gods that came down from the sky, had a child and lived on earth for a while. As they were going back up to the sky, a village woman saw them ascending, and were trapped on earth and were transformed in to a rock mountain. Even today, you can see the father peak and the child peak, and the mother peak on the other side.

When the bus drops us at the entrance, we are told we have until 3:40 to go explore.  We jauntily walk off, not even knowing what we’re supposed to be looking for.  We linger along the path, checking out the interesting food stalls and restaurants along the way, snapping pictures.

succulents in pots for sale along the path

succulents in pots for sale along the path

a snack of silkworms, anyone?

a snack of silkworms, anyone?

big hunks of meat for sale

big hunks of meat for sale

Finally, we come to a temple with a bright gold roof, Geumdangsa Temple, or “Gold Hall Temple,” built in 814 during the Silla Dynasty.  I think this is the temple we have come to see, so I take a bunch of pictures and spend too much time exploring the grounds.

Geumdangsa Temple Buddha

Geumdangsa Temple Buddha

bright leaves and lanterns at the "Gold Hall Temple"

bright leaves and lanterns at the “Gold Hall Temple”

drum at "Gold Hall Temple"

drum at “Gold Hall Temple”

I see other EPIK teachers walking further down the path, and I meet my friends Anna and Seth, who are heading to the really cool and unusual temple we are meant to see, Tapsa.  By this time it is 3:20 and though Anna and Seth are determined to walk to it, none of knows how far away it is.  I keep walking with them for a while, but as we round each corner and don’t see it, I become worried it about making it back in time, with my troublesome knee.  Finally at about 3:30, I say I better turn around.  I make it to the bus at 3:40, but no one is in any hurry to leave as they apparently changed the departure time to 4:00!  I would have had time to see the amazing Tapsa after all!  I am so disappointed, especially when Anna finally returns with her pictures of the very unusual temple.  I can’t believe I was right there and didn’t see it.  I have determined to return to this park sometime in the next couple of weeks to see it.

me with Mt. Maisan's donkey-eared peaks

me with Mt. Maisan’s donkey-eared peaks

Tapsa is a temple where a retired scholar built numerous pagodas one stone at a time over a period of decades. There are some marvelous towers which are so tall and massive it’s hard to believe they were erected by just one man. It is said that he built 108 towers over 30 years from 1885, but only 80 of them remain today.

the golden hall temple, but not the one i was supposed to see :-(

the golden hall temple, but not the one i was supposed to see 😦

We are on the bus a long 4 hours after this, heading back to Daegu.  By this time, I am bus-burned, especially as these seats are tight and narrow with little leg room, unlike most public transport buses in Korea which have plenty of room to stretch out.  We arrive at the Gyeongsangbuk-Do Provincial Office of Education around 8 p.m.  Wiped out, but happily so. 🙂

the beautiful grounds of Geumdangsa Temple

the beautiful grounds of Geumdangsa Temple

November 5:  It’s Friday morning and it seems there is to be no Hite Brewery for us.  This despite the fact that we are the chosen ones, the “best EPIKers,” at least according to the name tags we are given.  I have no idea what the criteria were that decided which Guest English Teachers (GETs) from Gyeongsangbuk-Do would get to attend this two-day field trip to Jeollabuk-do province, but somehow, we are special.  Due to our specialness, our first planned stop at 11:30 a.m. is to be the Hite Brewery, where all of us are dreaming of sampling brews before heading off on the rest of our field trip.  However, as we pull up to the brewery, we are told that on Fridays, Hite does not allow tourists to enter.  Hmmm…. Strange thing, this, as wouldn’t you think our fearless planners would have checked this out in advance and confirmed our arrival with the brewery?  Oh well, no beer to boost us off on our first day.  It seems it will be a dry day.

no Hite beer for us ~ at least not from the Hite brewery:-(

no Hite beer for us ~ at least not from the Hite brewery:-(

Instead we bus onward to the exciting Jeonju National Museum.  On our way, we make a stop at a rest area where we see this group of schoolchildren.

Korean schoolchildren at a rest area on the way to Jeonju

Korean schoolchildren at a rest area on the way to Jeonju

At the Jeonju National Museum, we see treasures we could never have imagined glimpsing in our lifetimes.    Opened in 1990, this museum houses Jeollabuk-do’s cultural heritages; its collection encompasses 24,000 works including archeological and artistic relics from the prehistoric and Mahan and Baekje periods, as well as folklore materials.  Nearly 1,400 works are displayed in 5 exhibition rooms and an outdoor exhibition area.  The museum also houses Buddhist arts, ceramics, and metal crafts.

Danny, Seth and Anna

Danny, Seth and Anna

fall colors on the grounds of the Jeonju National Museum

fall colors on the grounds of the Jeonju National Museum

the jeonju national museum

the jeonju national museum

the grounds of the Jeonju National Museum

the grounds of the Jeonju National Museum

I am bowled over by three huge ceramic beautiful woven vases, swirling with jade, lapis blue, and deep Indian red & gold strands.  I don’t know what these are, but they are stunning.

some amazing ceramic "woven" vases

some amazing ceramic “woven” vases

I see scrolls and paintings of interesting characters from the Joseon royal family, vases and pottery, bronze crowns and caps, dioramas of jumak taverns where tired travelers stopped for liquor, food and sleeping.  A Jangdokdae jar stand depicts how Koreans keep their spices on a low stone embankment on a sunny side of the house.  Basic seasonings are kept for all cooking done in the household, including soy sauce, soy bean and red pepper paste, red pepper powder, sesame, salt and kimchi.

a diorama in the Jeonju National Museum

a diorama in the Jeonju National Museum

pots for keeping kimchi

pots for keeping kimchi

After the museum, we head to a lunch of bibimbap.  We eat bibimbap continually in Korea, but apparently Jeonju is especially known for two dishes: bibimbap and gongnamul gukbap (which I won’t discuss because we didn’t eat it!).   Bibimbap is a mixture of a half-dozen seasoned vegetables, strips of marinated beef, sesame seed, seaweed, a fried egg, and a dollop of red pepper paste over a bowl of steamed rice.  Often served in a brass container, the ingredients are to be mixed before eaten.  As bibimbap is one of my favorite dishes in Korea, I enjoy it, and do even take note that it is better in Jeonju than in other places where I’ve eaten it.

lunchtime: bibimbap

lunchtime: bibimbap

After lunch we head to Hanok Maeul, a village of traditional-style Korean houses with tile roofs, high walls, and narrow alleyways.  Most of us EPIK teachers saw this village during our orientation in February, 2010, so we’re a little baffled as to why we’ve come here again.  We don’t complain too much as it is quite quaint and lovely.  Possibly our planners may have thought, because we were a little disoriented during our orientation, that we might not remember we had come here before!

jeonju hanok village ~ haven't we been here before? Me with Anna

jeonju hanok village ~ haven’t we been here before? Me with Anna

To start we go to a hilltop pavilion where we hear a woman perform traditional Korean music called pansori.  It is vocal and percussion music performed by one singer and one drummer playing a barrel drum.  From the hilltop, we have a great view of the tiled roofs of the village below.

the pavilion above hanok village where we hear pansori

the pavilion above hanok village where we hear pansori

shoes all lined up on the steps of the pavilion

shoes all lined up on the steps of the pavilion

This village is said to be the largest concentration of such traditional housing in the entire country.  In recent years, many homes have been spiffed up and turned into accommodations, restaurants, gift shops, coffee shops or tea houses.  The town is quite cheery at this time of year with its bright yellow ginkgo trees and other red-and-orange speckled trees.

a street in Jeonju

a street in Jeonju

Anna, Seth and Suzanne under a ginkgo tree

Anna, Seth and Suzanne under a ginkgo tree

sweet little goodies for sale in Jeonju

sweet little goodies for sale in Jeonju

colorful fans for sale in Jeonju

colorful fans for sale in Jeonju

Several guys in our group dress up in traditional costumes and pound rice with wooden mallets in a stone bowl to make rice cakes.  It’s pretty funny as they really get into their roles and eat up the attention.  We all get to sample the rice cakes after.

making rice cakes

making rice cakes

one of the guys making rice cakes

one of the guys making rice cakes

me with Seth, sampling the rice cakes

me with Seth, sampling the rice cakes

At the far end of the town, we explore the plush interior of the Jeondong Cathedral, a European-looking Catholic Church.  On the grounds is a grotto guarded by a gleaming statue of the Virgin Mary; inside are candles that can be lit for prayers.

Jeondong Cathedral

Jeondong Cathedral

inside Jeondong Cathedral

inside Jeondong Cathedral

a grotto with the Virgin Mary

a grotto with the Virgin Mary

part of the Jeondong Cathedral

part of the Jeondong Cathedral

For dinner, we are supposed to have samgyeopsal, grilled three-layered (meat-fat-meat) thinly sliced pork loin, but instead, we have some kind of soup with unknown meat (possibly beef?) in it.  We sit on floor mats at long low tables and drink Cokes and soju and eat the soup and other roots and vegetables and pancakes that usually accompany Korean meals.

the rooftops of hanok village

the rooftops of hanok village

As part of the purpose of this field trip is to meet and mingle with other EPIK teachers and forge new friendships, I sit somewhere randomly hoping to meet some new folks.  I happen to sit next to a nice Korean-American young man named David.  He surprises me by asking a fairly intense and thoughtful question, not the usually superficial banter that goes on at these gatherings.  He asks, what is your biggest challenge here in Korea?  I answer straightaway: loneliness.  Being older than most of the EPIK teachers, I find I have little common ground with other teachers.   And I don’t speak Korean to be able to make Korean friends. I ask him in return, What about you?  He says he came here to discover his heritage, as both of his parents are Korean.  Though brought up in California, he feels as Korean as a person can be.  But, he describes that Koreans have a circle of who’s accepted.  On the outside are the foreigners, who will never be inside of the circle.  But on the fringes of the inside are people like David, Koreans but not Koreans.  Both his parents are Korean; he was brought up Korean, but he’s American.  He will never be a part of the inner circle.  He is looked down upon because his first language is not Korean and thus not perfect; he seems uneducated to native Koreans.  This despite the fact that he speaks several languages.

me at an outdoor cafe in Jeonju

me at an outdoor cafe in Jeonju

a little fish pond

a little fish pond

After we check in to our hotel, a number of people congregate in our room to play a rousing dice game called Farkle.  We have a lot of fun; it’s great to meet some new people I’ve never met before.  I also happen to win the game, which is always a happy event!

Saturday, October 31:   My friend Jarrod comes to visit, searching for a change of scenery, a new place to explore.  Though he’s been to Daegu probably too many times to count, he says he’s never been to my part of town near Keimyung University.  He’s a 32-year-old Australian I met at the EPIK orientation, a very laid back and cool drummer who has found his groove in Korea.  I liked him from the first moment I chatted with him at breakfast at Jeonju University on the cold & dark February when we arrived.  He comes to my Daegu neighborhood solely as a friend, which I need sorely in Korea.  I have no thoughts of anything romantic with him because of our huge age difference.  But, I’m very happy he is taking time out of his busy schedule to come and visit me.

angels on the campus of keimyung university where we walk

angels on the campus of keimyung university where we walk

He arrives around noon on Halloween.  I have been searching frantically in the dark recesses of my brain for something interesting to show him in west Daegu.  I have only come up with a few lame options.  The first is a walk around Keimyung University.  The leaves are colored like pomegranates and summer squash and the air feels like a sliver carved from a pumpkin, cool and sharp.  We walk around the university, up and down hills, panting a little at the effort.  He tells me how he was seeing a girl named Virginia, how they went to Japan and it was difficult because one of them couldn’t access money so they stayed together a too much; Virginia said things were starting to feel too “couple-y” and then said she needed a break from him.  He is a little sad about it, maybe even more than a little.  He felt comfortable with her and truly enjoyed her company.

After our walk we eat lunch at Vince Burger, which has the best chili-cheese fries ever!  We drink several 1,000 won beers… How can we resist at such a price?  Jarrod talks about how he hangs out with the EPIK teachers but he feels he doesn’t really relate to them as most are in their 20s.  I tell him my difficulties with being older than other teachers, how I don’t relate to them, and they seem to form their own little cliques and I’m on the outside.  This really seems to be the story of my life.  I’m always doing things in my life at the wrong times: having babies in my late 20s and late 30s, getting my Master’s degree much too late in life for it to benefit me in the job market, teaching English with a bunch of 20-somethings in Korea, interning at the State Department and MSI, when most people my age are in mid-level or senior positions in their jobs.  This is my life, and this is what I’ve made of it.  I don’t know how my time sequence has unfolded in such a confusing manner.

Jarrod and I talk and talk. He likes Korea and is working to save up for an extensive, maybe year-long, trip around Europe.  He’s saved $10,000 already.  I say I’m traveling as much as I can now; I never know how my health will hold up and it’s already late in life for me.  So, instead of saving, I spend now, immediate gratification through travel.

He has been studying Korean, something I’ve never made any effort at since I’ve been here.  He has a number of close Korean friends.  He thinks Korean girls are too whiny and prissy, little princesses, and says he can’t see realistically having one as a girlfriend.  He lives in a small Korean town and he actually likes it.  He plans to re-sign here for another year.

After lingering over lunch and our beers, we play billiards at a billiard bang; I tell him I’m terrible and that truth plays out.  The only time I win is when he accidentally hits in the eight ball too early.  We drink beer the whole time; I feel like we are a spectacle in the midst of these young Koreans, the young hearty bearded Australian and the white-haired woman almost old enough to be his mother.

We go back to my apartment and we show each other YouTube videos; I introduce him to Turkish bands I like and he shows me the kind of music he likes, none of which I now remember.  I show him the “I’m on a Boat” rap song, “Jizz in my Pants,” and the “What is Love?” video done by the Oakton Otters swim team coaches, just so he can see the neighborhood where I live.

We eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant near my apartment, very mediocre.  We have been drinking beer all day and I’m really tired; I could use a nap.  Jarrod talks about his parents, who are divorced, and the difficult relationships he has with his family.  His father asked him once if he is gay, because he doesn’t seem to have many girlfriends, and he told his father, What if I am gay?  What difference would it make?  He wishes his parents would just accept him as he is.  We talk a lot about dysfunctionalities in families.  Later we go to Sydney Street Cafe.  I think he might like it because the owner, Mark, is Australian.  When we go we happen to meet one of Mark’s friends, also Australian, who is just visiting Korea.   Jarrod and I talk to them, and to each other.  At one point, I ask Jarrod if he needs or wants to get going as he had signed up online to attend a Halloween party in Daegu and I figure he will want to get going to that.  He said he really doesn’t care about going.  Later he tells me that if he were in Australia, he would probably never talk to those two guys.  The one was too much into “footie” and Mark hails from an area that doesn’t really mix with Melbournites.

heart-shaped leaves at Daegu Confucian Academny

heart-shaped leaves at Daegu Confucian Academny

Ben and Lilly come in to Sydney Street all decked out in skimpy Halloween costumes; Lilly is a bikini-bottom clad Superwoman.  Ben is the Owen Wilson Hansel character from Zoolander.  I’ve never seen Zoolander before, so when Jarrod wants to leave Sydney Street, we decide to watch a movie at a DVD bang.  We happen to find Zoolander, which we watch but I don’t particularly like.

After the movie, we go back to my apartment where I invite Jarrod to sleep on my mat on the floor of my apartment.  I have to put on my pajamas because I cannot sleep in my clothes.  Jarrod has on layers and layers of clothes and says he will sleep in them.  He lies on the floor and me in my bed and we talk & talk until an ungodly hour, chattering away like two girls at a slumber party.

Never has Jarrod shown any attraction for me.  I feel like he’s a good friend, easy and fun to hang out with.  In the morning I offer to make him some scrambled eggs; he turns me down so I make some for myself and he drinks coffee and we chat at my small kitchen table.  He lingers quite a while, until about 12:30, at which time he says he should go.  As we stand to say goodbye, he looks me directly in the eyes and then we hug each other.  I wonder if it’s a sympathy hug.  Maybe he feels sorry for me that I’m here in Korea at such a late stage in my life, friendless and utterly alone.  He leaves and I know in my heart he will not be hanging out with me again.  I think it is awkward for him, hanging out with someone so much older.  If I were a man, it wouldn’t be a problem, I’m sure, because we have such a nice rapport.  But since I’m a woman, it must be uncomfortable.

love the clouds

love the clouds

After he leaves, I go alone to Kyobo Books in downtown Daegu.  This bookstore has a small English selection, but I decide the prices are just too high.  I then visit Daegu Hyanggyo, or Daegu Confucian Academy.  This was established as a local educational institution for Confucian scholars in the 7th year (1398) of King Taejo of the Joseon Dynasty. I take some pictures and then head home on metro.  I go that evening to Bible study at Anna and Seth’s, where we also play a fun game of Bullshit!  and eat pizza.

Daegu Confucian Academy

Daegu Confucian Academy

I feel particularly sad tonight because I truly enjoyed Jarrod’s company, but seriously doubt we will ever hang out together again.  Sad. 😦

possibly the founder of the Confucian Academy??

possibly the founder of the Confucian Academy??

another building in the Confucian Academy

another building in the Confucian Academy

Confucian scholarship

Confucian scholarship

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