Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beachin', etc.

So Chuseok is over. Wah-wah. No more breaks for me until FEBRUARY. Ahhhh I don't want to think about it yet. Twas good while it lasted, that's for sure. Tuesday we went to Beomesa temple (see post #2 if you want), Wednesday was an attempted trip to Seomyeon. This was pretty much a bust as most businesses were closed for the holiday and it was raining like a mug outside. Just ask this guy.

But THURSDAY, this post is sponsored by the loveliness of Thursday. Visit to Gwangalli Beach. !!! !!!

Gwangalli is one of several (I think 9) beaches in Pusan. As soon as we turned the corner from the subway stop, I started skipping. I loves zee beach. It is so choice. (Sorry, I just watched Ferris Bueller the other night). But seriously, there is just something magical about water and sand and sun and access to all three simultaneously. This was evidenced in the overall feel of everyone hanging out there. So many lil kids, so many parents, everyone smiling, laughing, playing. It brings out the child in all of us, I suppose. The water was so beautiful and still a great temperature. Michael went in for a full dip but I wussed out and just ran around getting in to my knees. Shut it, it was still awesome.

What's interesting is that directly behind us is a looooong strip of coffee shop, bar, coffee shop, restaurant, coffee shop, lobster cage, coffee shop. You would never know it facing the water but as soon as you turn around, BAM.
I'm not sure but it seems deep. 

As it should be. No third wheels allowed. 

Michael loves this place. 


You are seeing double. I don't get it either. 

But actually do. You're supposed to. 

After noting via picture the spectacles of the street behind the beach, we continued our peaceful walk on the sand and encountered some interesting beach art. 

Michael pretending he likes books. 

Architecture forehead!

After I had sufficiently whined about being cold for long enough, Michael acquiesced and we headed to the local foreigner bar, HQ, ate a bad burrito (shame on us for attempting), and dominated Round 1 at trivia night. Unfortunately, our vehicle knowledge is limited so we ended up tied for 4th place by the end. Who the hell puts so many dang car questions in a trivia set?! Giant yawn. My useless knowledge of B-list celebrities would have owned! If only....

Today, we found a bookstore in Seomyeon with a pretty awesome foreign book selection a.k.a. English books! I picked up the third book in the Stieg Larsson series, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, for around 8 bucks! I. am. so. friggin. excited. And excited in general that I don't have to kick my terrible reading habit. Bought a watch and a cutesy sweater for less than ten dollars. Awesome. I'm also going to be experiencing a legitimate fall for the first time in over 4 years since I moved to Austin. It's exciting and nostalgic at the same time. Jacket weather and me go hand in hand. 

Things are good. 


"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around every once in awhile, you could miss it." Ferris Bueller 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Baby Buddhas Inc.

Yesterday we decided to finally get zee butts in gear and see one of the many Buddhist temples in Pusan. From what I've read, almost half of Koreans claim no religious preference and the other half are Christian or Buddhist. The practice of these two faiths has been influenced after centuries of Korean Confucianism. We decided to hop the subway over to Beomesa Temple, which according to my Lonely Planet travel guide is "Busan's best sight." It was founded in AD 678 and all of the original structures have been rebuilt because Korea has a long history of being invaded and conquered by it's neighbors.

The subway ride itself was awesome --once we transfered to Line 1, the majority of the ride was on an outdoor track so we were able to peep a lot of the city while riding. It reminded me of certain lines in Paris where that would happen unexpectedly and was always a nice change from the monotony of a metro ride. We hailed a taxi to the temple entrance because it was a looooonnggg, hilly haul to the top of a mountain. I'm amazed at how cheap cab rides are here --that one was less than 3 bucks and you don't tip! Awesome.

The temple site consisted of many separate buildings situated near the top of a mountain. It was beautiful. Going from temple to temple, there were many people who were meditating/worshiping and I felt uncomfortable somewhat invading a private moment so closely --even though it is a major tourist site and they're probably used to ignoring visitors. It was so interesting to observe and see another religious practice. So calm, quiet, and peaceful. I felt lucky to witness something new and different.

After walking around the temples for quite awhile, we walked to a nearby creek area where people were laying around, dipping their feet in the water, and snacking. I'd do some monk-ing there --it was pretty dang picturesque.

Afterwards, we ate samgyeopsal, which is barbecued bacon-type pork that has a mean side spread. Note the photos. I'll have to do a lone food post because there's just too much to cover already. Other than the accidental chicken feet order, food has simply been amazing. And hey, one of my students that likes chicken feet swears it's good for your skin sooo...if I come home with the skin of a 2 year old, don't ask any questions and don't be jealous. Okay be jealous.

As fatty as it gets in Korea.
Czapstick mastery. 

Post-dinner, we scored Michael a quick pick-up basketball game. Actual courts are hard to come by here so you gots to take advantage when you see one. Did a quick run to the local Lotte, catch all grocery/sporting goods/electronic goods/instrument store and watched "Memento" at home. Maybe it's just me but after having seen "A Beautiful Mind," I wasn't floored by the ending. Sorry Memento lovers.


Today's Daily T-shirt will actually be sponsored by my to-go coffee cup. Enjoy.
Espresso of Street
"when I walk on the street
            with my coffee,
                       I smile.
I feel so good and happy.
            magical thing!
it's a cup of coffee."

"Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!" Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road"

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Well, starting this dang blog was actually more frustrating than anything I've experienced so far since moving to ASIA! DAMN. They do not make this easy. Or I'm an idiot. Yr choice.

It's Sunday afternoon/early evening here and I am relishing in my solitude. Tis a sweet thing. Until you get so frustrated with eblogger you consider punching through yr thin, papery Korean apartment wall. ANYWAY...sorry.

I've been in South Korea for not quite 3 weeks and already have the week off because of an ancestral holiday called Chuseok. Which is actually a pretty sweet holiday: a sort of harvest festival where Koreans return to their hometowns, paying respect to the spirits of their ancestors. And eat delicious food. Makes me think about all the Dia de los Muertos-ness I see around Austin, and essentially how cool it is there are holidays where people just sit around to eat and drink and think about loved ones who have come and gone. Embracing death in remembrance via soju or tequila seems like a great tradition to me. I'll explain soju soon enough...

So although Busan is the official spelling of this city, it used to be Pusan and is still pronounced that way by Koreans, so I'll refer to it as that here. There are 15 gu's (districts) in Pusan, and I live in Buk-gu, Hwamyeong-dong. It's kind of in the suburbs, the northwest part of Pusan and is about 45 minutes downtown by subway. It's a pretty chill area but I like it and there is still stuff to do. The school I work at is literally across the street from the apartment so I have no complaints. If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it's that I always want to be a bike ride away from work. Preferably no more than a 15 minute ride, hahaha.

Apparently we came at the end of the rainy season, which is SWEET because I met this girl the other day who told me she was walking to work every day and had to bring a change of clothes and shoes. She was drenched after a ten minute walk, with an umbrella and rain boats. I said, "that sounds really lame" and then whispered "thank GAWD" to myself at my fortune. Cross that bridge when I come to it next summer, ah-thank you. Point being, the weather's been awesome here and hasn't even really been cool at night yet. I have to say, coming from the freaking 110 degree heat in Austin I am looking forward to having seasons again. Just like ol' times, Indiana. But please shut yr mouth and don't remind me I said that when I start complaining about winter every 2 minutes. hahahaha

Got here on Wednesday night the 1st and had 2 days of teacher "training," which consisted the 1st day of me shadowing one of the teacher's who was leaving. The second day "training" was me teaching 4 out of 5 classes. Training must translate into "just do it" in Korean. The following Monday, I officially started the teaching gig solo. It's amazing to me how good the kids are. The "bad" ones just like to talk and laugh more than the others but even then, they're not running around the classroom, laying on the floor, or dancing like strippers. Those of you who have heard my kid stories will take my word for it: these Koreans are heavenly. Although I can't say I don't miss the colorful anecdotes of a day spent at Kealing Middle School. The "bad" ones have also been my favorites and make me laugh the most. I love you, Cheyenne.

All in all, my only complaint about teaching so far is how TERRIBLE the curriculum is. I feel like a robot and can't believe such useless books are published and used to teach English to ANYONE. I want to beat my head against a wall when going over lessons for the day. I'm trying to get the creative juices flowing here so these kids can actually benefit from their time in my class. There is going to be a lot of improvisation this year but it'll be good. It'll at least make me better at what I'm doing. These poor kids are in school alllll day and then go to Academy until 9 o'clock at night. Can't even imagine. It gives me a lot of compassion, patience and gentleness, when they're difficult or when they're not.

I've had moments the last few days where I'm standing on a street corner, looking around (trying not to be blinded by neon crosses), and realizing where I am. It feels pretty damn good. The transition has been light and I'm loving the feeling of being somewhere new. Getting that knot in my stomach that has to be the excitement of catching the travel bug. I'm afraid it may be a permanent virus, hahaha. There's so much more to be said, but would unfortunately turn this one entry into a short novel. I promise plentiful albeit briefer posts and will leave you by referring to the title of this post. The English translations on the tee-shirts Koreans wear are amazing and often seem strangely philosophical. My student Conan (yes, he picked that name) was wearing this shirt the other day. Not here, go to the title, hahaha.

"A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving." Lao-Tzu, The Way of Life