Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So What's Been Going On?

Well it's been over two weeks since I last wrote a blog entry. And that was a rushed one about our holiday time. We're not really any busier than usual, but it seems so sometimes. Saying that, work is as busy as usual, with a Speech Contest coming up on Thursday.

We have had to reign ourselves in socially, as we have paid off some debts and bought our return tickets back from Japan for September. Can't wait for that, so looking forward to the Japan trip. Another lifetime dream about to be fulfilled.

So then, what have we done since we got back from holiday? We finally went to the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, (pictures below) owned by Samsung. It was one of the best museums we've seen so far, just goes to show what money can buy. There is pieces by some of the leading contemporary artists in the world. It was so great to see such art all in one place. Not seen such things since the Tate Modern in London.

Since holidays, we've been to a derby football match. Suwon versus Seoul, the stadium was packed to the rafters. Fortunately Suwon won, which is good seeing as the are the home team.

Apart from that we've not done too much. We did have a Mexican Night last Friday at home. Kristin is heading home soon, so she brought round what food she had from the last Mexican Night we had. Ben and Jorge came round as usual. Also though we had new friends round. Jason an American we'd met a few weeks before came round, he brought his work mates, Warren and Nicole, and his pug dog Sujo.

Sunday we went to the races again. Samantha and I met up with Amy, and we jumped a train over to Seoul. There we met Jorge, Ben and Ben's work mate Gary. They'd gone earlier. We'd supposed to have gone the same time as them, but got up late. Fun day was had by all, and no-one won or lost too much. Then again when you are making average bets of 1000 won (50p), then you aren't going to break the bank, or make yourself a millionaire. Then again, we go for a cheap fun day out, and that's exactly what we had.

Well that's it. Oh, almost! I'm supposed to be running in a half marathon. Dorothy bullied Jorge and I into it before she buggered off to Thailand on Holiday. We started training with good intentions. Even met up at 7.30 in the morning on the first day. Then it slowly went down hill from there. I did a couple more days, until I was so stiff I couldn't hardly move. Since then neither of us has done much, if anything. Got to get back into it, otherwise the half marathon will kill us. That is, if Dorothy doesn't kill us first for not doing any training.

Picture Of A Big Pig

This is in Itaewon, on the way to the Leeum Museum.

Picture Of Samantha At The Leeum

Across the space known as the rotunda, a stairwell in the museum.

Picture Of The Rotunda

This rotunda is at one end of Museum 1, which was designed by Mario Botta, an Italian Architect. It narrows as it goes down, giving a illusion that it is taller than it is.

Picture Me Sam And A Damian Hurst

This is part of Hurst's series of 'pill' installations. This is the thrid one that we've seen now, and probably the most stunning. Thousands of different pills all on little shelves, backed with a huge mirror.

Picture Of The Museum Foyer

As you can see all the building is spectacular.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Summer Vacation

We got our time off. Six days to do our thing. So we decided that seeing some more of Korea was the thing to do. So Saturday morning we set off to the east coast, making our way to a town in the north east of Korea, Sokcho. It was about a 4 and a half hour bus ride through the mountains from Seoul to Sokcho. The scenery was cool, very reminiscent of the alps. You can understand how there are still bears and tigers in the north of Korea, as the forests are so dense and stretch on forever. There is very little evidence of any inhabitants in the mountain areas.

Now there ain't much going on in Sokcho, but its a good starting point. Within only a short bus ride is the Seoraksan National Park. That's where we headed on our first full day, Sunday. The park is beautiful, truly stunning scenery. We took a hike through the forests, along a river, and up a mountain. A fantastic place, we got to see some amazing stuff, and get close to nature.

That night we ate at a place that did dumpling soup, that Samantha had been gagging for. We got talking to this Canadian guy who was there on his own, Reuben. Later we got talking to another guy, turned out he too was Canadian. They're bloody everywhere! Anyway, we spent the night chatting and drinking with the guys, and didn't get to bed until the very early hours.

Next day we made the decision to leave Sokcho and head slightly down south. We made our way to Jeongdongjin, a very small seaside town that's quite famous in Korea. The reason for its fame is the huge hourglass, that runs for a whole year, and is turned every New Year. Also it's well known for the cruise liner on the cliff top. Literally! The rebuilt a cruise liner on the top of a cliff, as a luxury hotel.

We found a motel in near the beach and within sight of the cruise liner. It was mid-afternoon when we got there, so we immediately hit the beach and soaked up what rays there were left. The next day it was overcast, so the beach time was out. We climbed up the cliff, to see what was going on with this cruise liner. They have a sculpture park up there, and a big sailing ship that they also built onto of the cliff. We wandered around, and has lunch in what would have been the bridge of the liner, when it was a 'real' ocean going ship.

After lunch, we'd done the whole cruise liner thing. We grabbed a cab and went about 6Km north to the Unification Park. Here they have a old South Korean warship and a North Korean submarine that you can walk around. The coast is quite heavily fortified around this part of the coast, with look-out points every so often. The submarine they have was captured only about 10 years ago.

Next day it was throwing it down, so we decided to head home. It took us a long time to get home by bus. What should have been a 3-4 hour journey took us 8 hours. Traffic was nose-to-tail all the way almost to Seoul. Looked like everyone had the same idea, and decided to come home a day early. We were so glad when we finally made it home. We had a good time, seen a lot, and I'd managed to read the whole of the last Harry Potter book.

Picture Of A 25hr Mart

Hey in Korea they do it bigger and better. Not satisfied with a 24hr convenience store, we spotted this 25hr one in Sokcho.

Picture Of A Chipmunk

I had to creep up on this little guy to get this shot.

Picture Of Us With Buddha

Having a tripod is great!

Picture Of Samantha Mountain Climbing

This was where she quit, as the next stage was too much for someone afraid of heights. But as you can see we are pretty high already.

Picture From The Top Of A Very Big Set Of Stairs

This is only the beginning of the climb up to the peak. After this it was clambering over rocks, and the odd set of steps and handrails to help you get up to the top.

Picture Of The View From The Top Of A Mountain

This the next peak across. I took this while sat on a small rocky out-crop, on top of a mountain that I'd climbed.

Picture Of Samantha Taking The Waters

Spring water from the mountains, comes into this temple.

Picture Of The Tottering Rock

This thing can be rocked back and forth, we saw it done. Unfortunately we could budge it.

Picture Of Dangonfly And Mushroom

Hey get this for nature photography. Taken at Seoraksan National Park.

Picture Of The Sun Cruise Hotel

Yes, they built a cruise liner on the top of a cliff. Hey why not!

Picture Of Jeongdongjin.

The view from the top of the cliff of the town. Our motel is the one in the foreground.

Picture Of Samantha Holding A Ship

Everyone was taking this kind of picture. All good fun.

Picture Of Us At The Hourglass

This huge hourglass runs for a full year, and is famous in Korea.

Picture Of Us On Our Last Night.

We had a sea food BBQ, a huge plate of HUGE prawns. Very nice!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mud Festival And Bringing Things Up-To-Date

Not posted for a while, been so busy. Now I'm playing catch-up. So just to bring things up-to-date, as far as just before we went on our vacation, well here I go.

Erm..! Oh yeah, the Deacheon Mud Festival! That's the main thing we've done. Well Jorge, Ben, Dorothy, Sam and myself set off early (very early) on the Saturday morning. We caught the train down to Deacheon, a two and a half hour journey. We couldn't get seats, so we and many others had to find somewhere to plonk ourselves. Near the toilets seemed a pretty good place.

Eventually we landed at the station and grabbed a taxi over to the beach. Kristin had pre-booked a room for us all, but unfortunately couldn't come. She'd started being sick the night before, so had to cry off. We dumped our bags in the room, got changed and hit the beach. Jorge went straight into the sea and started swimming out. Within five minutes the coast guard was there in their speed boat and ordering him back towards the beach. Turns out the swimming zone on Korean beaches is tiny, I mean tiny. You can swim out maybe 40-50 metres before you get stopped.

After that we did what we came to do and went to get down and dirty. There are stalls set-up all over the beach where they have buckets of mud and brushes. You simply cover yourself, everyone does. All you see at the Mud Festival is people in various states of mud cover. From head-to-toe, to just their face, arms or splodges in any number of places.

Well it was only just hitting early afternoon, but we started to relax into the festival atmosphere and as such cracked or first can of beer. The rest of the afternoon carried on in the same vain, drinking beer and taking in the fun of it all. There was lots to do and see, including mud wrestling, giant slide, and any number of big inflatables for people to jump, climb and bounce all over.

Ian had a meeting back at home, so arrived later in the day. The night went on like the day, wandering around the beach, meeting the weird and wonderful people hanging out near the beach. We ended the night, or at least most of us did, in the very early hours drinking back at our motel. They were giving away free beer!

Next day, Ben had to leave early as he needed to go to Seoul that day to meet John and Jo. Jorge also left early, leaving Dorothy, Ian, Sam and myself to enjoy the sun of day two. Same as the day before, but with almost no beer drinking. We'd had our fill the day before. Dorothy, Ian and myself hired quad bikes, and bombed around for a while. Sam laid out on the beach, not feeling sober enough from the night before to feel safe on a bike.

The rest of the day was spent hanging on the beach, enjoying the sun. We decided to get a later train back, as it was so lovely just chilling. The train was the same thing again, no seats, and so finding a corner somewhere to call your own.

The next week, before our vacation week was an odd one. The kids are off on holiday so many of them hang-out at school. Mr. Oh isn't around much, doing whatever secret business dealings he's up to. Some new kids have started, so we have to think of new names for them. Which is getting harder and harder all the time. I spent almost a full lesson, finding a name for one girl. She just didn't like most of the 100+ I'd thought of. Lisa, is what we ended up with.

Apart from that I can't remember much, so there can't been anything notable happened. Apart from on the Monday before we went away, we didn't have to teach kindergarten. We still had our usual Monday morning meeting, so all the staff were there. Mr. Oh took us all out for lunch, which was something we've never done before. It was good, and made a nice change. We just worked that Monday, and that was it, vacation time started. Hurrah!

Picture Of Scary Mud People

Covered in mud and good to go, day one of our Mud Festival experience.

Picture Of Sam In Action

Helping Ian to get covered in mud.

Picture Of Us On Quad Bikes

Dorothy, Ian and I hired quad bikes to bomb around Deacheon on.

Picture Of Five Statues

Being all serious (well mostly) as statues.

Picture Of The Gang Of Four (Day 2)

Dorothy, myself, Sam and Ian.