Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chopstick proficient

Today during lunch one of the Korean teachers said, "your chopstick, very good."
"Some days good, some days not so good", I replied. 
She laughed, then said "better than mine. Do you use chopsticks in your country?"
A Korean complimenting my chopstick skills, well this is a first! I am now considering myself chopstick proficient, and crossing it off my ROK bucket list. You watch I'll be chopstick clumsy again on Thursday now. Yes, Thursday  Did I mention that tomorrow is another red day, so just a four day week this week. Nice-uh.    

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mysterious mt Maisan, Tapsa temple and Jeonju International film festival.

 This weekend, Newsbeat and I went on a trip with Seoul Hiking Group to Mysterious Mt Maisan, and Jeonju film festival.
Mysterious Maisan, and Tapsa temple are amongst the top 10 scenic places in Korea. I definitely recommend a visit. 

Mt. Maisan Provincial Park is located in Jinan-gun, Jeollabuk-do.

The cherry blossoms were just about still in bloom. The wind was blowing the petals off the trees covering people, and the ground in beautiful wispy light pink. 

There was a festival atmosphere around Tapsa temple when we visited, with various different performances.

My favourite performance was this traditional pansori (traditional Korean music). The group of girls drumming and synchronised dancing were completely mesmerising (I wish I could do that), it was amazing.

Tapsa temple is surrounded by lots of stone pagodas that were built by a hermit monk who lived there. He built over 120 pagodas, but only about 80 exist today. Apparently there is something very mysterious about these pagodas. No matter how bad the weather, even during storms, they somehow do not sway or fall. 
There is a myth that has been passed down through the generations regarding Mt. Maisan. It tells of two gods that came down from the sky, had a child and lived on earth for a while.

Another strange and interesting fact about Mt. Maisan are the gravity defying icicles during winter. Apparently if you put water a bowl, the water freezes upwards into a pole reaching for the sky. It is said that no one knows quite why or how this happens, making Mt Maisan all the more mysterious. Obviously we didn't actually get to witness this phenomena during May. 
After we visted the temple, we travelled to our love motel accommodation where we shared a room with two lovely Korean ladies.
Love motel
  Perhaps we were fated to meet....

They also kindly fed us snacks and performed an impromptu tea ceremony for us in our room, which was pretty sweet.

Later we went Makegoli tasting, here I tried black bean Makegoli for the first time. It wasn't bad, but I think I prefer rice wine Makegoli.

26 different side dishes were served to accompany the Makegoli.

Obviously there were several that I didn't try, but the broccoli was pretty tasty.

On the Sunday morning, we watched a Japanese film called 'blindly in love' at the international film festival. 

Film: Blindly in love, Director: ICHII Masahide

Film synopsis: 'An abnormally introvert man is blindly in love with a blind girl from a wealthy background. They love each other conditionally, but others see them in a different way. An impressive comedy'.

The film was slightly dark and obscure, the ending particularly bitter-sweet  There were plenty of comical references about Japanese family, relationships and marriage that kept the audience amused.

In the afternoon, we visited Hanok village and had a bibimbap cooking class

Jeonju is significant historically because it was the spiritual capital of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty and also because the Yi Royal Family originated there. There are gorgeous historical remnants, and an amazing folk village, and apparently it is the largest and best place to experience ancient Korea.

Jeonju Hanok Village is located in the city of Jeonju and overlaps Pungnam-dong and Gyo-dong. There are over 800 traditional Korean 'hanok' houses.

Korean wedding

Whilst wandering around we came across a Korean wedding ceremony, which we managed to (gate crash) soak up the atmosphere for a short period of time.
Bibimbap cooking class

Afterwards we attended a Korean bibimbap cooking class, the best bibimbap is meant to be made and originate from Jeonju.
Bibimbap cooking class

We cooked and prepared our Bibimbap dishes in the back garden of the teachers home. She told us that historically the villagers would prepare large dishes of Bibimbap in this manner and then share amongst themselves, and sit down to eat together. 
Our lovely Bibimbap class instructor.
Bibimbap cooking class
Sitting down to eating Bibimbap in a traditional Korean family home
Mixing and sharing our Bibimbap in a traditional Korean family home

I also managed to successfully cross the following off my ROK bucket list:~

~ Enjoy a westernised Korean wedding ~
~ Spend a platonic night in a Love motel ~
~ Take part in a traditional Korean tea ceremony ~
~ Have a normal dinner in a Koreans home ~
~ Learn to cook a traditional Korean meal ~
~ Check out some Cherry blossoms ~

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How far did we get?

Third base. 

Sorry, I've mainly acquired most of my terminology from the baseball euphemisms used in American TV and films. So today, the plan was to watch a baseball game. This was going to be my first live baseball 'match!' Newsbeat scoffed at me when I called it that, she told me that it's a baseball game.
I said, "Well, I don't know, do I". Shortly after this, she started referring to me as 'England'. I told her that'd be 'Miss England' to her, she's not quite picked up the 'Miss' bit yet, I'm still working on it....

We were going to watch the Doosan bears play the Hanhwa Eagles at Jamsil Baseball Stadium. Baseball is very popular in Korea. I had been warned that tickets for baseball games tend sell out, so it's best to order them in advance, online. However, the ordering section is all in Korean, so we asked one of our COTs to assist. They told us there were plenty of seats left for Saturday's game, and we should be able to purchase tickets from the box office a couple of hours before. I don't know why, but this invoked my first sense that things mightn't go quite to plan. We also planned to go out in Hongdae after the match, sorry game. 

On Saturday, it was grey, cold and rainy outside. Yet for some reason, I opted to dress for going out later that evening, my hoodie, smart purple top, black jeans, high-heeled black boots and full make-up. Bearing in mind, I have plenty of experience with regards to freezing my arse off at various footy grounds on plastic chairs for 90 mins, this would not seem to be most considered and sensible attire. When I arrived to meet my friends, I found they'd opted for more game appropriate attire, sports hoodies (sweat tops), jeans, trainers, and baseball caps. They were also 'pre-gaming', which basically means drinking beforehand. I noticed there weren't many people around, still we walked round the outside of the Stadium looking for an open box office. We got as far as the sign you see below, before we decided to call it a day. 
We were standing contemplating our options, when an Ajoshi walked past us, whilst talking in Korean he pointed at the ground, pointed at the sky, and then made a cross sign with his arms. It was barely even drizzling, but he confirmed what we had suspected, the game had been rained off'. Gah, we'd struck out! Defeated, we decided to have dinner and drinks together, before heading to Hongdae later.
Hopefully, next time I'll really get to see third base. Heck, my first home run even!   

Thursday, April 18, 2013

School dinners

I don't mean the ones we have at lunchtime. 
I mean the ones we were told we would probably have after school, with the principal, vice-principal, and other teachers. The social school dinners, these kind, I'd only previously experienced two.
Well today we had another, we had a BBQ in the car park after school. 
Sightly surreal and amusing team-bonding experience...  
'Not everyone's experience, will be the same'.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring sniffles

"Teacher, today your fashion is good." 
I don't know if this means that it's bad on other days, but since I was suffering with a cold and feeling rather 'icky'. I was taking, and greatly appreciating this compliment. 

Throughout the day Jenny 1 said,
"Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"You should go to the hospital"
Erm, it's only a cold....
"You should go home and rest".
This, I can and will do.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Coffee expo

Newsbeat and I spent Sunday afternoon at the Coffee expo, where we indulged in plenty of free coffee and ice-cream. 
Straws and chocolate :)
Weird bubble tea and 'toxic-looking' pink ice slushy stuff
Koreans love name badges - I have a growing collection.
Free ice-cream
Where are we?

What else would you expect to find at a Korean coffee exhibition? Alcohol! That's right there was a bar serving free drinks and demonstrating various cocktail bar tricks to keep the crowds entertained.

Afterwards we went to the Cinema to watch 'Oblivion'. Whilst we were struggling to purchase our tickets from the automated machine, a lovely Korean student came to our rescue. It turned out that she wanted us to complete a short questionnaire, we were happy to oblige. Even happier when we realised the survey was about Makgeoli (Makkoli), in the short time we have lived in Korea, we like to think that we're becoming quite the rice wine experts (it's much nicer than that Soju stuff, which we can still only just about manage to drink with a beer chaser). After completing the survey, we also received complimentary face masks for our time and effort (more free stuff!).

Oblivion wasn't a great film, too much Tom Cruise for my liking. I'm not a big fan. It's not particularly original. Newsbeat drew reference to similarities with the Matrix, which reminded me of  'Minority report' another sci-fi with Cruise, this was made ten years or so ago and is also better. The end is confusing, we didn't really care about the characters because the acting generally fails to stir any emotion, it gets slightly yawnsome, and it left far to many gaps at the end for us to bridge ourselves - we gave up thinking about it. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Outer Seoul

Sirena, newsbeat, and I, went on another photowalk with Expedition Korea. This one was to an abandoned district of Anyang in Gyeonggi-do. Although I've been here for nearly eight months, this was the first time I have officially ventured out of (outer) Seoul under my own volition (whilst remaining in South Korea). What can I say, there is a lot to do in Seoul. The Philippines being an exception of course, and I'm not counting Muuido Island the other week because it was an organised trip. I also managed to arrive early, despite my 'absent mindedness and natural other worldliness'. Yay, me! 

This was the perfect opportunity to test the settings and features on my new camera, that I purchased from Gmarket a couple of weeks ago. As you can see, I became a little obsessed with the partial colour filter. I didn't have that feature on my previous camera. And, when Newsbeat showed me how to change the colour setting for this, well there was no stopping me.

After all the walking and photography, we treated ourselves to a well deserved Korean BBQ. 
Korean BBQ

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cherry buds

This evening Newsbeat and I went in search of Cherry blossoms on Yeouido Island, where there's an annual Spring flower festival. Apparently, behind the national assembly building '1,700 trees erupt into magnificent clouds of pink', and in the evening they are lit up with various coloured lights. Unfortunately when we arrived, we found they hadn't bloomed yet, so were more like Cherry buds. This was a tad disappointing considering that other trees in Seoul have bloomed, we discussed and joked about some North related theories.  
Yeouido Island was cold but still very pretty, we walked along the water front for hours. There were lots of couples riding tandem bikes, families with children and high schooler's enjoying the sunset. I think we'll have to return in a couple of weeks. Hopefully our trip to Jeonju at the end of the month will be more blossom successful.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What 'newsbeat' says...

WHDH-TV 7News Boston

Former 7News employee in SKorea: SEOUL, South Korea -- A U.S. official says intelligence shows North Korea has likely completed preparations to test fire missiles. North Korea is even sending out propaganda telling foreigners in South Korea to leave, but few if any are budging.

Her pseudonym is newsbeat for many good reasons...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Who is the jack of hearts?

What did we do when it was a rainy weekend in Seoul?

We went to a board games cafe, of course. Following a couple of months of anticipation, I finally learnt to play the popular strategy board game that everyone has been talking about - Settlers of Catan! (well ok, grasp some of the rules well enough to be able to play better in the future). Basically, players collect resources to build settlements, cities and roads. You win the game by achieving 10 victory points. Remembering everything was slightly more difficult than usual because the cards, game and rules were in Hangul. Now, I need to learn the mystery card pictures and meanings, so next time I can use them to my advantage more effectively.

Lady PP also treated us to another fortune telling session using a deck of playing cards. Everyone opted for relationship fortunes again which seem to have been considered uncannily accurate. Whether you believe that people skew their interpretation to suit what they want to hear or not, it's definitely been a great bonding tool. It's encouraged our friends to share much more than we knew about them before. On this occasion, I was used a dummy run, and strangely my situation had changed from a couple of weeks ago. Who is the Jack of hearts in my life? Not a clue, will you reveal yourself to me please, thank you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

"You have to live, live, live!"

Bangs are big in Korea, and I don't mean fringes. Bang (방) means room. There are a number of different types, norebang (노래방 - Karaoke), PC bang, DVD bang, multi bang (Entertainment everything, wii, xbox, karaoke, watching films, etc - 멀티 방), jimjilbangs (찜질방) are slightly different in that they are large public Saunas/sleeping/games rooms.

We've spent a lot of the winter months singing in various norebangs. More recently we've begun visiting the multi-and DVD bangs to watch films together. The other week we watched the original Evil dead 2, 'groovy!'
DVD bang
DVD and multi-bangs have a bit of a seedy reputation. For example, when I told Jenny 2 that I'd been to a multi-bang, she said "High school students go there, and do strange things." Thanks Jenny 2!

Today a group of us visited a multi-bang near Konkuk university. When we entered the room, I noticed there was a towel placed in the middle of the mat on the floor. "What's that towel there for?" I asked.
My friends responded with comments like "seriously?", "Ah, you know what it's for?", and "Oh come on".
"I know, I want you to tell me it's not what I think it's for". I said, which was duly greeted with "ah, bless you" and other such teasing. Later, when I opened my Makkoli, it fizzed up and went over my jeans and the floor. "Pass me the towel" I said, "see this is what the it's for, makkoli spillages". Slightly amusingly and embarrassingly, I discovered when Makkoli dries it leaves somewhat suspicious looking stains.
"Anyway, so how's your sex life?" The Room.
Father Ted had been raving about this film called The Room for weeks. He forewarned us it was the worst film we'd ever see. Although he also told us it's hilarious, and since it was made in 2003 it has developed a growing cult following. I didn't watch any clips beforehand, mostly because I didn't want to ruin the surprise. So I had no idea what to expect, other than I knew it would be bad.

In true American style we opted to play a drinking games throughout the film. We each picked certain lines, key phrases or background shots that meant we had to drink. I picked "don't worry about it", which doesn't actually occur that often, so I merrily sipped my Makkoli regardless. Lady PP who isn't a big drinker picked a background shot, let's just say she made her way through a bottle and a half of Makkoli and was rather merry by the end.

Initially, we questioned whether Father Ted surreptitiously had us watching soft porn, particularly for the first twenty minutes when not much else happens. Who knew red roses were so erotic? Ted kept telling us to calm down, he said there are only three sex scenes and they're all at the beginning. This is not true, there are five. However, they are hilarious. In fact, most of the film's hilarious, the acting, dialogue, story lines, the scene changes, the inexplicable sub plots and themes, are incomprehensibly hilarious. We all laughed pretty continuously at the sheer ludicrousness throughout the film. I wish we'd had some spoons.