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Friday, December 16, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I was blessed this year to celebrate my thankfulness twice! If you don't remember, last year I spent the holiday in the company of Americans with a dinner on the Marine base here. This year was quite different. I like to call both celebrations International American Thanksgivings.

Thanksgiving #1:

Shaun and I plus all of our friends in Uljin made the four and a half hour trip up to Suwon (close to Seoul) where we were graciously welcomed by Angela. She opened her home to all of us for the weekend and got all of the food for an American Feast. Only it wasn't only Americans in attendance. We had Americans, Canadians, Koreans, Brits and a South African. For some it was their first Thanksgiving! And of course, we all went around and shared what we were thankful for.

After the big meal we all had to unbutton our pants for a while (it really happened...) and then we got rowdy with a game of charades. Amy forgot to keep score but I'm sure my team won. Next we headed out to explore the night life of Suwon. Good times were had by all. The real fun (although not fun at the time) came the morning after when the stragglers stumbled in.

This story probably isn't nearly as funny if you weren't there but I'm going to tell you anyways because it was hilarious. I'll begin the story with noting that I had only gotten four hours of sleep in the past 48 hours. Lack of sleep mixed with turkey and drinks made for an exhausted Heather. Shaun and I plus a few others went back early in hopes of falling asleep before the others got home. Wrong. After many interruptions we were all sleeping soundly by 7 a.m. Then at 9 someone's phone starting going off. It was Amy's, who wasn't aware there was a phone alarm going off. So we tried to get her to turn it off. Mission accomplished? No. Five minutes later it starts again. I, a little aggravated at this point, calmly (not really..) told Amy to find her phone and turn it off. She struggled to open her purse from the wrong end first. Then she got it open. Finally. And pulled out her... Candy bar. The group heard me yell, "AMY THAT'S A CANDY BAR NOT YOUR PHONE!" Amy proceeds to open her chocolate to take a bite.

Funny? No? Guess you had to be there. Amy I think your candy bar is ringing. Better answer it.

Good times.

Thanksgiving #2:

Weeks prior to Thanksgiving my friend May and I thought it would be a good idea to have a dinner with friends. That turned into fifteen friends crammed into my little studio apartment. I made four chickens (turkeys are non-existent in Korea besides on military bases), stuffing, green bean casserole and sweet potatoes. The rest of the fixings were provided by all my friends.

We had Americans, Canadians, South Africans and Koreans! Again, it was the first Thanksgiving for some. Everyone was thankful for family, friends and the opportunities we all have being teachers in Korea. Bellies were full and wine was flowing (I counted 16 empty bottles scattered on my floor the next day). We rounded out the night Korean-style with noraebang! Who doesn't like karaoke after Thanksgiving dinner? Beat that America!

Almost a month later, my apartment has finally recovered. I won't be hosting Christmas this year...

Until now, I had decided to end my stay in Korea and return to America for good in February. Upon some thinking and number crunching, I've decided it's in my best interested to stay here. Most of my good friends are staying another year so why not? I've re-signed with my school for one more year! I'll be sad to be away from my family and friends for yet another year's holidays but think of it this way, I'll be able to save up and afford great Christmas gifts in 2014!

Korea is actually a wonderful place to spend the holidays. All my teacher friends are in the same boat - away from family. We are each other's family.

Happy Holidays, all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Little Kitchen Cooking Blunder...

...Number one thousand, two hundred, fifty-four...

Let me explain. My kitchen is TINY. A tiny kitchen plus a clumsy person never ends well. I've broken numerous dishes, bowls and glasses...Even if I haven't broken anything recently, I always find shards of glass when I sweep. It's bad.

Anyways, today is a cold day. What goes good on a cold day? Answer: Chili. And even better, I had all of the ingredients already. Perfect. So I'm making my chili... Beans are boiling, meat is cooking. Meat is finished. Then...

BOOM

One pound of cooked hamburger on the floor! How does that even happen? It's best not to ask. Luckily I had an extra in the freezer and am proudly enjoying my chili as we speak.

(**Note... I promise more posts are coming. I'll admit, I've lazily neglected my blog. But all the witty ideas are floating around in my huge brain. I'll get to it soon.**)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Caution!

This is Korea's version of ramen noodles. They are a staple in every Korean's diet, young and old.

If I were to ask any student what their favorite food is they would probably say,"Ra-mee-an." (Me: "Can you make a sentence?" Student: "My. Ra-mee-an.")

They should put a cautionary warning on the bowl. In English. It should say this: "The contents of this package, if (accidentally) inhaled through the nose, will cause extreme pain. Don't do it."

Not that it happened to me or anything...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall Festivals

September was a whirlwind month for me. In and out of Korea, China and America... Eleven flights in three weeks. Whew! I'll eventually get around to blogging about my trips (I have about 1,000 pictures to go through first) but here's what's been going on since I got back to Korea to stay for a while.

I officially love fall festivals in Korea. They're such a great cultural experience. Wherever you are, at home or abroad, I encourage you to get to a festival. I went to two in one weekend. 

On Saturday I went with six other friends to Andong (about two hours away). I'd been to Andong last fall to visit the traditional village there. I think there was a post about it... Anyways, this time at the festival there were traditional masks displayed and performances from all around the world. It was nice to enjoy the nice weather, good company and people watch!


Not exactly traditional masks...



Tae kwan do performance


Some of the masks displayed from a contest.


We had a photo shoot in traditional Korean garb!



They did too. Only they don't look as thrilled...


I made some mask shaped soap :)


Sunday a few of us met at the bus terminal. **Side story really quick...**

I'm running late (as usual) and decide to grab a taxi so I'm semi-on time but there are no taxis anywhere. So I'm just waiting for one to drive by on the main road and a car pulls over and the woman asks if I'm going downtown. I tell her no, I'm going to the bus terminal and she said "Ok, come on." So I get in the car and the couple drove me to the bus termina!! Don't try this at home, folks. Only in Korea can you accept a ride from strangers and it be totally safe.

Today when we met we went to Gyeongju (30 minutes away). There was a rice cake and liquor festival. Let me just not that I don't like rice cakes of any form. Korean rice cakes aren't like those from America. They're soft, chewy and most often tasteless. There were so many varieties and I actually tried one kind that weren't too bad. 

There was a demonstration for Japanese rice cakes and we wanted to try but this Korean guy with a "PRESS" badge talked to our Korean friend with us and told us that it was Japanese and Japan is bad so we can't try it. There's a Korean rice cake demonstration there and we need to do that one... Haha. So we went there and there were a bunch of Korean children in line to try. I took a picture and was ready to move on to the liquor part of the festival... Nooooooo... The Korean man basically fanned all the Koreans away to make way for the foreigners! So the group of us made rice cakes which took a good hour, including all of the pictures and pose changes (I'm surprised there weren't costume changes too!) I thought we were done when the same man approached us and asked Christie to do an interview for the news! Thennnn they insisted we pose for more pictures eating the rice cakes we had made. The ajumma gave the waygookins gloves to wear and there was a Korean woman who wanted to try (they again pushed the Korean children and adults out of the way to make room for the waygookins) and the ajumma gave her one glove thinking she was with us. When she realized she was just a lone Korean, the ajumma took the glove back from her! So we're rolling our rice cakes and cutting them. Then we had to eat them. That consisted of an ajumma literately feeding rice cakes to Emily and me as we were being photographed. About four times. (Once again, I don't like rice cakes). So by the end I have a mouth full of four chewed rice cakes, refusing to swallow. And the ajumma hands me a whole plate of them to take home. Yum. 



Posing for pictures...


Making rice cakes.


Not delicious...

At last it was time to move on to the liquor! We all bought some awesome shot glasses to wear around our necks for $1. Then the tasting began. Most of the liquor was absolutely terrible but I felt it was my cultural duty to try all of them no matter how bad they tasted. I didn't puke!



This was rice liquor freshly decanted. Just a drop on your tongue was enough. 
Super potent! Probably 110 proof...



Fall Festivals: Korea vs. America

Beer: $2 vs. $10
Corndog: $2.50 vs. $5
Admission: Free vs. $5-15

Treated like a celebrity vs. not treated like a celebrity
Drunk men running a muck while spectators observe vs. drunk men running a muck and getting arrested

Much success!



Monday, September 19, 2011

Bad News

It was Thursday morning. I had a Skype date with my mom to discuss the final details before she would leave to come to Korea. In the middle of the night I had gotten Skype calls from a close friend but didn't think anything of it and ignored them. I woke up to a Facebook message and email from my mom to call her immediately and a Skype voice mail that I needed to talk to my grandma as soon as possible. I knew it was something bad.

I called my mom's cell phone and she didn't even want to talk; she told me to get on Skype. I keep replaying the conversation over and over in my head.

Me: What's wrong? Is it dad? [already tearing up]
Mom: Yes.
Me: Did he have a heart attack?
Mom: Yes.... Heather, he died. 


It would be bad news for anyone, but I feel like it was intensified since I'm so far away. I felt guilty for not calling him since we had last talked ten days before. Most of all, I felt helpless. My grandma and I were the closest people to him and I couldn't be there for her. We couldn't be there for each other. I started to feel guilty for coming to Korea in the first place. But I know in my heart that my dad was proud of me for following my dreams. For traveling. He was always 100% supportive of everything I did - even though I didn't go to school to be a real estate attorney like he wanted me to.

The first decision I had to make was whether or not to continue with my travel plans. In two days I was scheduled to leave for China with my mom. I asked myself, "Would dad want me to go?" The answer is yes. He knew how excited I was. The trip had been planned for eight months. Now at first he couldn't understand why I wanted to go "see those communists" but was excited for me nonetheless.

So my mom did come to Korea and we did go to China. I'll be heading home (to USA) with my mom the same day she was scheduled to head home. My boss was really nice to let me go home for a week, although his compassion was a bit lost in translation.

 I called him and asked him to meet me at school to talk. I told him what happened and had silent tears streaming down my cheeks. His way of comforting me was saying, "Heather! Calm down!" and "Don't cry." I'm sure he meant well.

It's hard to accept that it was "his time" and "everything happens for a reason." My mom was really comforting but in a matter of fact tone she told me bluntly, "You have to get used to people dying." Making jokes and being a little cynical helped me push through my seven stages of grief. Being away has really helped me stay strong and accept the situation quicker. All of my friends and family in Korea and at home have been super supportive and have graciously offered their condolences. It's good to know I have support near and far.

It was probably one of the worst days I'll ever have but I got through it. With my daddy forever by my side, I know I can get through anything.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Curse of a Bad Day

I woke up to some bad news... No problem. Thought I needed some fresh air so I decided to head to the bus terminal to buy ticket to go to the airport to pick up my mom on Friday. (It's a holiday weekend so everyone and their cousin will be taking the bus.) I have "Baby got Back," stuck in my head. (This will come into play later in the story.)

I'm scooting scooting scooting and then my scooter dies. Again. (Ironically while going to the same place it died on me the first time.) Not. Happy. So I call my scooter guy (then his English-speaking friend calls me back) and get things arranged for my scooter to be picked up... Still not happy.

Not the end of the world though. I get my bus ticket and pick up a few groceries. I was running out of time to get ready for work so I took a taxi home. That was $8 more than the $ZERO I was planning on spending on transportation for the day. Since my scooter's broken that also means I can't make it to Hot Yoga. Again, not happy.

Once two or three things go wrong in your day (before you even start work) it seems like nothing else can go right either. Next was traffic. Since Koreans like to choose the most congested time of the day to do road construction, it took extra long to get home (and more money...) But guess what song came on the radio... "Baby got back..." Korean taxis occasionally have the most random music playing. Like the time Macarena came on (and the driver even danced with us!)

I make it to my building and my shopping bag decided to get a hole, letting my new bottle of wine fall out and shatter. I really needed that wine now (after work) because Korea needs Ritalin.

Oh well, what can you do... Hopefully tomorrow is a better day. If not, I have a wonderful vacation to look forward to and most of all, seeing my favorite person in the world! (Can you tell I'm a little excited to see my mom?!?!)

The End. I have an extra bottle of wine to tend to ;)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Curse words in class

In America, if a student uses foul language during class, that student would... well I don't know what would happen. But in my class, well... all I can really do is take points away from them and tell their Korean teacher to call their mother. (Wooo... scary... Actually, it probably is pretty scary. Korean mothers are vicious. No offense to any Korean mothers who might read this.)


Anyways, yesterday I had my back turned to the class (my most obnoxious, terrible group of adolescent sixth graders) and a word we were studying urged me to sing a little diddy and I hear "Shebal." "Shebal," my friends, is the worst curse word in the Korean vocabulary. Equivalent to... you know what... I can't even post it on the World Wide Web. (It rhymes with Buck Dew.) So my eyes quickly dart around the room angrily as students ask, "What, teacher?" I asked who said the bad word and one angry student fessed up to it. Pretty sure I was more angry though. (A little background... I have two girls in this class who don't respect me and have no clue how to combat the issue...)


First I ask how many points you lose for bad language. (Of course none of the students have an answer... So I ask a Korean teacher. The students accumulate points to buy things at Market Day.) I then take 20 points away from her ($2), and tell her to leave the classroom. After I finished teaching my lesson I went into the office where her Korean teacher was lecturing her. Then it was my turn. I told her, "If you say bad words in my class, at least say them in English. If you had said "F-you," it would only be minus five points." And her homework was to write me a letter of apology.


This was my letter (verbatim):


Because


You come before 
           John and me fighting so Choi (the head teacher) give sb a good scolding and I'm so angry and I'm sad. but Jhon is keep laugh and get funny with Andy I see I'm so angry. becase I say "시 발" (F-you in Korean) bad language I'm sorry.
           but John is keep make me angry I'm go outside He is close the door. I speak bad language. I'm sorry.




I gave her some candy and told her to learn English curse words on the internet.



Monday, August 29, 2011

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

One more birthday has passed and it was a good day. My coworkers presented me with a pink princess cake, friends came in town for my birthday dinner (which I was an hour late for... sorry folks who came out but I barely got to see...) and I danced the night away afterwards.

Cake #1 from work

Cake #2 from my friend Teddy

Cheers!



Birthday shot with the JSD girls!

Dancing at TILT


My birthday, however, was just another day that got me closer to seeing the most important person in my life: My mom! She'll arrive to me in Korea in 11 days (who's counting...) We've been waiting for this day since June 23rd, 2010!

Mom and I have decided to make a list of seven places in the world we want to visit together. Well, we've made a list of three places so far... China is #2. So we're heading to the land of Kung Fu, communism and a wall you can see from space! After waiting for three weeks on an answer, I finally cornered my boss and demanded a yes or no to my vacation time (even though our flights and private tour is already booked...) and the strange man looked at his calendar for about 30 seconds and said, "Okay." I've gotten three weeks of, "I'll tell you as soon as possible," and in less than a minute I get, "Okay." *rolls eyes*

Our private tour will include eight days in three cities: Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. We'll get a chance to see Pandas at the Beijing Zoo, climb the Great Wall, eat some duck and many other things. In Xian we'll also get to take a Chinese cooking lesson! 

After our adventure in China, mom is coming back to Korea with me for a week which will include a trip to the DMZ. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Foreigner Card

It's the best card to hold up your sleeve in Korea. Allow me to explain, but first, here's the situation that gave me the idea for this post.

I'm driving on my scooter and there's a red light. I notice there are two old Korean men in the intersection then one whistled and yelled at a van that drove through. Hmmm... Then my side gets the green light but no one moves. We wait and wait and wait. Obviously these guys are blocking traffic. Why? Who knows. They aren't in any type of uniform. They have a yellow velcro arm patch and a whistle - one of the men is even carrying his umbrella. I know I probably should have just waited but I had places to be! I took it as an opportune time to play my foreigner card and scooted right through the intersection. They blew their whistles and looked as a drove by and, "Oh it's a foreigner...." I didn't know better...



If you're ever in a situation where you don't understand something or do something wrong (and get yelled at by an ajumma or ajashi), just play your foreigner card. For example, at gimbap restaurants (Korean fast food of sorts. They sell varieties of gimbap - kind of like a Korean sushi roll with no fish - and other popular Korean dishes) you're typically given an order form where you mark what you want. I can't read Hangul (Korean language) therefore the sheet doesn't help me. I give my order verbally to the ajummas. The ajummas who work at the little place by my house love me so it's no big deal. Others find it annoying. Sorry, I'm a silly waygookin.

I asked around on Facebook for situations where my friends have used their foreigner cards. Anna said she uses hers with cops. Suddenly she doesn't even know how to say hello in Korean.

Anthony uses his whilst taking more than one free sample at stores. I guess we hope that Koreans will think, "Oh they must be able to take as many as they want in his country." Yep, that's right!

Another situation that happened to me last weekend.... I was on my way to the beach and stopped for some food. I was wearing my swimsuit (low cut) under a dress (also low cut). The ajumma at the restaurant took it upon herself to physically show me that my swimsuit should come together more in the front. I pretended to not understand and continue eating, thus playing my foreigner card.

If you ever have your card ready to throw and a Korean speaks English to you, no problem. "No hablo Ingles."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Baking: Discovery or Disaster?

A good friend went back to Canada and I inherited a lot of her baking supplies (because I bake so much... NOT). Since I've had my oven I've pretty much stuck to toast for the most part. Here are some other things I've baked:


  • Stuffed pretzels. Some of them turned out decent, others, not so much...
  • Rosemary bread. The recipe said that if you want a hard crust on the outside and soft bread inside, you should spray water on the loaves while they're baking. I don't have a spray bottle so that consisted of me holding a cup of water and splashing the bread. Not the same... Oh and I made a huge mess in my kitchen.
Note all of the water drops all over my oven...

It wasn't terrible but not as good as Macaroni Grill.

  • Banana nut bread. FAIL. We (Lauren, Frances and me I think) had probably been drinking. I decided it would be a good idea to make banana nut bread to accompany our roasted chicken dinner. At the grocery store I bought the ingredients I thought I might need (bananas) but left out some important ingredients like baking powder or soda. Oops. I didn't feel like going back to the grocery store or spending who knows how long trying to look for what I need or trying to test my Konglish and ask someone to help me. I mean, how back could it be if you just left out the ingredients that make the bread rise? Answer: Kind of bad. Frances still claims it wasn't that bad but I know my friends threw out their doggy bags of Christmas fruit cake type banana nut bread. 
  • Pizza. All the toppings fell off when I tried to take it out. FAIL. 
So now, months later, I've put on my Betty Crocker apron again and attempted to make zucchini bread. I googled a recipe (and googled whether or not I had to peel the zucchini before I grated it). Luckily I had all the ingredients, including vanilla! Whether two teaspoons of vanilla and two tablespoons of vanilla are equal or not (I know they're not equal), I suppose my lucky taste testers will soon find out!

**UPDATE** My zucchini bread turned out surprisingly well, if I must say so myself. Still waiting for other brave souls to test it!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Bad start. Good ending.

As my third ride, I decided to ride my scooter to the bus terminal. I had a trip to Uljin (about an hour and a half away from Pohang) planned and I bought my scooter so I didn't have to rely on the bus. Even though I was a little afraid of riding it at a semi-busy traffic time, I had confidence in myself.

So I'm scooting, scooting, scooting... then it starts going slower, slower, slower. And then stops. In the middle of a busy road, where inconveniently there are no places to get up on the sidewalk. [Enter several obsceneties...]

I've only broken down on the side of the road one other time in my life and that was a horrible experience (long story short, it included a ride in the back of a cop car and three hours at the Gerald, Missouri police station with Officer Joe...). At least this time I knew where I was and had cell phone reception (and didn't cry).

I called a friend who had no idea how to help me (thinking back on it now, not sure why I called you, Jenn!) Then I called the guy who sold the scooter to me, who of course, was of no help as he didn't speak English. Eventually I got a call from a Korean who spoke English to translate the problem/solution between Buddy (scooter salesman) and me. I was told to leave my scooter on the sidewalk with the keys in the seat (Hopefully it wasn't stolen...) and take a taxi to where I was going. Remember, I was going to the bus terminal to catch my bus at 9:30.

I got in my friend's car at 9:23 assuming I'd miss the bus and I'd either catch the next one or leave the next morning. She drives (illegally) to where the buses depart from and tells me to run. I run. I say "Uljin" in Konglish to the first worker I see and I get waved to the bus in front of me. I tried to explain that I didn't buy a ticket yet. I get waved onto the bus... Okay. So I get my wallet out to pay the driver who also waves me to the back of the bus. Alright...

I'd never been to Uljin but my friend told me that the bus I was taking was an hour and a half ride, straight there. Nope. It made about 20 stops along the way. I had no idea when I was supposed to get off. I asked these middle school-looking boys if they spoke English. No. One of the boys mustered up enough courage to try to tell me that my stop was the last stop and it would arrive at, "Eleven hour, forty minute." I applauded his effort. And a little later a woman looks at me and says, "Uljin. No." (The middle school boy had informed everyone else on the bus that the silly waygookin didn't know where she was going and to help me get to Uljin.)

I made it, finally, hungry and with a headache. To much avail, my friend Angela had a lot of yummy leftovers in her fridge and fed me American food that night and the rest of the weekend. The blueberry pancakes Saturday and Sunday morning made my day, week, month and probably year!

The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out with good company at the beach, an outdoor jazz festival and more sun and beach! I was asleep before midnight every night but had so much relaxing fun doing practically nothing. You need those weekends sometimes.

I guess I was (abnormally) cheerful today during my first class (and may have broken out some show tunes). One student asked me, "Teacher. Why you sing? You happy?"

"Yes, Miki, I am happy."

"Why?"

"I had a good weekend."

And then William says, "Teacher. Stop the music," and covers his ears.

Playing cards on the beach because it was raining (note the umbrellas..) 
We were determined to enjoy the beach in spite of the not-so-great weather!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wheeeeeeeeeels!!

As my birthday is coming up in two weeks, I thought it was appropriate to buy myself a new present. (Truth be told, I've bought myself several birthday presents recently...)


I don't live in town, so it gets really expensive to take a taxi to meet friends or just go anywhere in general. I do take the bus but they aren't always the most reliable mode of transportation or quickest. So to solve my transportation issues, I bought a scooter. 

My beauty is close to new (has a about 500 km on it) and I got a really great deal that included a helmet and lock! Max speed is around 65 km/hr (about 43 mph) which is generally less than the speed limit but that's okay. North American friends, you probably know about my not-so-great driving history. I assure you, I'll be safe. A scooter is small so it's not as easy to bump or hit things. And there are no corn fields in Korea (props if you know this story...).

When I got on it to test drive I thought, "There's no way I can ride this thing," as I jerk forward and nearly fall off. "Slow. Slow," says the Korean man holding the back as if I'm riding a bicycle for the first time. After my first solo 100 meter ride I look back to see Koreans watching (I pictured them cheering me on but it probably didn't go exactly like that) a 5 year old riding without training wheels for the first time. 

I am proud to report that the road was actually much easier. On my way home later, I almost experienced running out of gas. Luckily, my scooter shut off just as I was pulling into the filling station. Let's hope there won't be a repeat of that... ever. I went for a ride around my little village this morning and it went quite well. I still need a lot of practice but I'll get there! I opted not to get the elbow and knee pads as it's sweltering outside right now but if you all could say a little prayer for me (everyday, please!) and the other Korean drivers on the road that would be great!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jimgilbang

Korea is always filled with cultural experiences. After all the MudFest fun, my body felt quite rough. To soothe my aching muscles I decided to brave a Korean bath house and sauna I'd heard so much about. I was always very nervous and hesitant to go, mostly because of my modest, Western upbringing. What I really mean is I didn't want to walk around naked in front of a bunch of Koreans. The results were quite surprising.

I went with Su Jung for our weekly Tuesday outing. Korean bath houses are everywhere and there's a famous one quite close to my house, but luckily we went to one that was further. I probably would have been mortified if I'd run into one of my students with their mom...


We pull up to this building that sits on a cliff overlooking the East Sea. Beautiful. We go in and pay and get two towels and an "outfit." First we put our outside shoes in a little locker then walked up to the women's floor. We strip into our birthday suits and walk around for a while waiting to get our little hand scrubbers. There's nothing like walking around naked with a bunch of ajummas. Surprisingly I wasn't judged. My biggest fear was that I'd be gawked at because let's be honest, I don't exactly have an Asian appearance...

My scrubber is pink.

Scrubbers in hand, we journey into the bath area and wash off first. Then we make our way to the tubs.

This is a picture I found on Google but it closely resembles the one I was in, minus the men of course.

There were like five pools of water with different minerals and temperatures. The temperatures ranged from 60 degrees to about 100 degrees. So we just chilled in the water for a while, hopping pools when the water was too hot or cold. Then it was time to shower. Next, the sauna.

We put on our little outfit we were given and go to the co-ed sauna floor. There were five saunas with different minerals and temperatures again. My favorite room was the "Mud ceiling" one which was set at 130 degrees. It was nice and relaxing. I showed Su Jung some of my hot yoga moves but she wasn't having it. No hot yoga for her. 

Tubs once more and another shower and we were ready to leave. Going to a bath house/sauna is a regular thing for a lot of Koreans and I can definitely see why! It was such a relaxing, serene experience. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MudFest

Boryeong, South Korea is known for two things: (1) Mud (2) Mud Festival. The silt is apparently good for your skin. Everything in Korea is good for your health and/or skin. Direct quote from the festival website, " The mud itself is very good for your skin and health." The low tide during this time of the year makes it perfect to have a festival!

Our trip started at 5 a.m. with a crazy bus ride. Ninety Pohangsters boarded the buses with beer and booze. The frequent, much needed bathroom breaks interrupted our Noraebang (karaoke) fun but the songs just commenced once we boarded again. The last leg of the ride was particularly painful as we had passed the last rest stop but 90/90 people needed relief. This was the result...

(Photo courtesy of Angela Russell)


Our first stop was to the mud flats for Mud Olympics. It consisted of various challenges, relays, tug of war and of course, a lot of beer. 


(Photos courtesy of Daniel DeGrasse)

Unbeknownst to us, the tide comes in rather quickly. This resulted in everyone's shoes being scooped up as quickly as possible so they weren't washed away. Then that resulted in everyone who had their shoes rescued  venturing up sharp, shell-covered rocks barefooted. The ending result was many sliced feet, arms, knees and bodies. (Which we all felt the next day when we were sober again.)

We then went to our accommodations for the night. The wonderful trip arrangers reserved minbaks (you could compare them to condos) for the 90 of us to sleep in. 

Some beach time was in store after Olympics. We checked out the actual festival a bit then headed to the sand for some Frisbee and swimming. A bulgolgi (marinated beef with vegetables) dinner was prepared for us and the winners of Mud Olympics were announced. I am not so proud to announce that my team, The Dirk Digglers, won the award for the least amount of points scored. Our prize was horrible, cheap vodka that we had to share. Terrible.

After a nice walk on the beach at night, an awesome fireworks show started. 

(Thanks again for the pictures, Angela!)

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was sitting in a plastic lawn chair around the corner from our minbak where some people set up a make-shift bar and grill. The characters we saw during the course of four hours was quite comical. 

(After face-planting into the concrete, this guy at least made it to the bushes to pass out.)

A lively crowd carrying on around "Rhythm and Booze."

The two guys in this Trans Am drove up about four times for drive-through beers...

After a few hours of sleep it was time to get up and enjoy the festival for a while before it was time to head home. This was by far the best part of the weekend. There were areas where you could paint yourself in mud and another area that had mud wrestling, mud pools, mud slides, mud prison and just about every mud activity you could think of. 

You stood inside the bars while bowls of mud were thrown at you.

One of several slides.

A pool to wash off in before going back for more mud!

Paint your mate. Paint yourself. Be painted by ajummas...

...Just relaxing in the mud.

My friend Angela and I walked around (covered head to toe in mud, of course) to take pictures and came across a traditional Korean percussion band.



Then, all of a sudden, we were handed drums. To play with the band. 




Note the Korean photographers behind me... They were EVERYWHERE! One Korean would stop us and ask to take our picture. Then 20 more would swarm in. There's a photo contest for pictures to put on next year's MudFest poster.

The ride home was significantly quieter and I'm sure it took everyone a few days to fully recover. MudFest was an experience to remember forever and kind of makes me want to stay in Korea for another year just to go again. We'll see what happens... Here are some other fun photos from the weekend.

Sunset at Daecheon Beach.

Mud Man??


Kimchi!!

Angela and me just as cold mud was thrown at our backs!






Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Food

My Korea co-teachers offered me food today. I was feeling adventurous so I decided to take the plunge and try the "blood sausage," but I wasn't brave enough to face the "pig gut." Now if that doesn't sound appetizing I don't know what does... 

They prefaced it by saying, "It's very popular. All Korean people like this." Like I'm gonna' fall for that... I knew the sausage-looking bites were called "blood sausage" but wasn't sure exactly what it is. My co-teacher informed me that it's noodles made into a sausage and soaked in blood. Mmmmm. 

As much as I'd liked to have been surprised with something incredibly delicious, the "blood sausage" was not delicious. 



The stuff next to the not-delicious meat is "dok bokki," which is chewy, spongy rice cakes and processed fish hot dog type of "meat" slow cooked in spicy red sauce. Also not delicious in my opinion but some I know some foreigners who do enjoy glutenous rice cakes and fish hot dogs.