NSFW Vacation: Jeju Loveland

The most important thing to remember about this post, before you start reading it, is that it is definitely, definitely, not safe for work.  Don’t read it, don’t even glance quickly over it, if you are offended by sexual images or reference.  You will find them here, represented in hilarious statue form.  The content is very light-hearted and fun, and all the real-live humans keep their clothes on.  But if you’d rather just not see a statue’s genitalia (or a statue of genitalia), then you’re reading the wrong post.

Once, again, not safe for work.  N-S-F-W!

If you would like to see these images, continue on!  You’re likely to chuckle.  I’ll put them safely under this handy read more tag.

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A Children’s Art Show in Downtown Uijeongbu

I’ve never lived in an “urban” environment before.  But I have been really enjoying the conveniences of downtown Uijeongbu.  When it comes to entertainment or food, most of what I could want is in easy walking distance.  The neighborhood’s diagonal streets used to fluster me, but after a few months I’ve found them highly navigable.  As far as living goes, our present set-up is pretty ideal.

Apart from fixtures like shops and restaurants, my favorite thing about our neighborhood has to be the various events and performances that are usually going on along the main pedestrian road.  Usually it’s something simple, like a musician or a band setting up some amps and microphones and playing for the public.  But from time to time, something a little more intense goes up and really draws a crowd.

This morning I walked to the bank, and found myself in the middle of an exhibition of children’s art.  Evidently part of a three day festival, the paintings were lined up in rows according to age group, while the artists were receiving awards and certificates up on the stage.

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Korea's Finest, just starting out.

I can’t say too much about the specifics of the show, because nothing was in English, but it was delightful.  Several paintings were quite good, and the whole thing had a really positive atmosphere.  The theme of the pictures seems to be Korean culture/nationhood, and there were plenty of interesting and expressive takes on it.

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Paintings lined up by the Smoothie King

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My personal favorite piece. Love the composition and contrasts!

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More pictures (and plants) just outside the door of my bank.

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As you can see, this child has strong opinions on which country Dokdo island belongs to!

I love public art, and I’m glad that Uijeongbu’s kids got a chance to contribute to the festival (or whatever’s been going on) this morning.  Things like this are what I hope I’ll remember best about this year.

Gakwonsa Temple and Mt. Taejo

It’s not all work work work here in Korea for Tara and me.  Today we had an adventure of another sort, a little old-fashioned sightseeing.  To get a look at Korea’s spiritual heritage, we decided to visit the Gakwonsa Temple, home of a certain spectacular giant statue of the Buddha.

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A small shrine near the temple complex. This is not the giant Buddha.

We took two buses to get there, for a journey that was probably about an hour and a half in duration.  The temple is nestled up against some mountains, in a village area that has the feel of a skiing town.  There didn’t seem to be a huge permanent population, but it was definitely primed for tourists.

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Tourists who clearly know how to have a good time.

Korea is a mostly mountainous country, so it comes as no surprise that most of its holy places are associated with mountains.  It’s a very natural and appealing setting for a sanctuary.  It also entails a great deal of climbing.  We ascended an incredible series of stairs and had to pass a lovely island of trees before we finally caught a glimpse of Gakwonsa’s star attraction.

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Behold the stairway, destroyer of legs.

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This is the giant Buddha.

The giant Buddha of Gakwonsa is about 15 meters tall.  As you can see from this long-distance shot, 15 is quite a lot of meters.  It translates to about 50 feet, if you like your units traditional, and along from being very very big, it’s quite beautiful.  The craftsmanship needed to create a work like this should be applauded forever.

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A closer look at the Buddha, the second largest in South Korea.

To the Buddha’s left lies the temple complex itself, brightly painted  and chiming with bells in the brisk wind.  We came as tourists, but it is a very spiritual place, and we saw many people going about the act of worship.  There were places where one could write prayers (for the price of a donation), either on paper or on larger, shingle-like tiles.  And of course, many people would go inside the various temple buildings for prayer or meditation.

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No large crowds, thankfully.

Tara and I proceeded cautiously, wishing to respect the temple and the people to whom it belongs.  But we did go inside one briefly, to look at the golden statues inside and do a little quiet sitting.  We took no pictures of the interior, of course, but to anyone willing to make the trip, I’d highly recommend a look.  There are wonderful paintings of Buddhist history and myth, and the chamber is very peaceful.

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The swastika seen on the side of the main building here is a very ancient symbol associated with many cultures, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. It represents eternity, as well as being a traditional sign of good fortune.

There’s a hiking trail behind the temples, which we decided to try out.  Without really meaning to, we found ourselves climbing very near to the summit of Mt. Taejo.  We were pretty high up the mountain to begin with, and our path was only about 800 meters to the rest spot just below the peak.  But it was a steep trail, and somewhat perilous with ice and loose rock.  We each managed to slip and fall once, though I probably had the more hilarious landing.

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Glad we wore some decent shoes.

The path split in three directions, two of which appeared to go in an upwards direction (though we were clearly near the top).  Tired from the rugged climb, we decided to come back another day, perhaps when camp had made us a little fitter, and explore for more shrines or spots of significance.

It was cold and cloudy, but still a beautiful day.  I’m glad we took this opportunity look upon something exceptional, exhausting as it may have been.  We’re both looking forward to coming back, and seeing more such wonderful places.

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Love the Buddha’s dance moves.

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Candles at the site of the Buddha, bearing images and writing in both Hangul and Hanja (Chinese characters).

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I found myself wondering how many of the Koreans who visit these temples are still literate in the Hanja characters that adorn many of the sculptures and buildings here.

Saturday Adventure in Cheonan

I meant to post about this a while ago… but it never happened.

We went into Cheonan for the day a couple weekends ago.  It was great fun.  We went to see

.  Buying our tickets was a little interesting but luckily we found a foreigner to help us.  The process, at least a Yawoori Theater, is to take a number (like at the DMV or something).  Then you get called to the counter and pay for your tickets and pick your seats. Picking your seats beforehand is actually really nice because you don’t have to go super early to the theater to get prime seats.  The movie we went to see didn’t start until 3:00 and it was only about 1.  So we walked around the mall and went to eat lunch.   We decided to eat here:

Pizza Hut!

Pizza Hut!

It is funny because even though we are not tired of eating Korean food, seeing this Pizza Hut made us so happy that we had to eat there.  I couldn’t help being excited for “American” food.  The same goes for when we see American/ English brands.  The unfortunate part is that these brands are pretty expensive.  David and I enjoyed a smallish pepperoni pizza for 25,000 won!  We probably won’t be going back there anytime soon, especially when we found a much cheaper pizza place near our house that tastes better.

I also spent the 5000 won that my roommate Joann gave me for Christmas at a Starbucks!  I bought a Christmas Cookie Latte for 6,000 won…  It had tiny pieces of cookie in it and was definitely not worth $6ish but at least I got to go to Starbucks!

Me and my Christmas Cookie Latte!

Me and my Christmas Cookie Latte!

David and I saw our movie, then did some Christmas shopping (including buying lights for our room) and headed home.  It was a fun day and we saw a lot of different sites!

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Ways Koreas Has Already Changed Me!

As we approach the three week mark of our time in Korea, I can’t help but notice that I have already made some changes in my life.

1) I don’t have a cellphone.  Well not a working one anyways.   I am still waiting for my alien registration card so that I can get a plan.  Although I have heard it is WAY cheaper to get a pre-paid plan ($15 for two months vs. $70-100 for 1 month) but then I won’t be able to use 3g.  And really, what is the point of buying an expensive iphone if you can’t use internet except when there is wifi.  Decisions, decisions.

2) I wear slippers all the time.  I used to not really wear slippers or socks in the house, but I have recently adopted this Korean cultural habit like a boss.  I wear my cat slippers in the house, I wear bath slippers in the bathroom, and I would wear slippers at work if I didn’t have to run everywhere all the time.

My house slippers!

My house slippers!

3) I expect to eat rice at every meal.  David and I went to a Korean BBQ a week or so ago and did not realize we had to order rice separately.  We had finished our food and were still hungry which was confusing because usually you feel pretty satisfied by the meal.  Then we realized, WE HAD NO RICE!!!! I now understand why my dad eats rice everyday.  I have only been here for two and a half weeks and expect it at every meal, so going your whole life eating it, must be very hard habit to break.  Also, David thinks that if people just ate more rice in the U.S. it would solve a lot of the hunger issues there which is probably true.

4)  On another food note, I never know what I am eating.  At work, depending on what shift we are working, we sometimes get 3 meals a day (for free) of work food.  There is always at least 4-5 different dishes not including Kimchi.  One time I thought to myself, “How do Koreans know all the names for the different foods we are eating?”  Then I remembered that they have lived here their whole life so of course they know all the names!  Usually the food is pretty good and I just eat it no matter what it is. But sometimes it is horrible.  The other day we had “fish”.  The scales and the bones were still majorly intact (there were more bones than I even knew could exist in a fish).  Breakfast is interesting because it is pretty much the same as every other meal.  Rice, Kimchi, spicy side dishes… the only difference is there are usually eggs of some sort.  The past two breakfasts we have eaten, what I believe are quail eggs.  David LOVES them, I think they are weird and gross.

On another note, the other day we had sundae, a specialty of the town we live in.  Je Jin, our friend/ Korean assistant at work, told us we were eating “dak” which is a type of noodle.   However, David and I were both horrified because we thought she said, “dog”.  Imagine how I felt when we came home and David looked up sundae on the internet and found out it was made of pig intestines and probably other things… I think it is better to just not know.

5) I talk very slowly and in short sentences.  I…just… want… everyone… to… understand… me…  Examples: Bathroom?  Lunch time!  Let’s go!  Huh? Take scissors, cut.  Color this.  What?!

6) I drink coffee from a can or a dixie cup.  Coffee is hella expensive here.  I have had exactly one cup of regular coffee from a coffee shop (more on that later) and it cost me 6,000 won or around $5.50.  So now I go to convenience stores and get a delicious can of “latte or mocha” for a mere 1,000 won.  At work we also have these powdered french vanilla “coffee” that I drink from dixie cups.  David sticks to tea.

My Christmas Dixie cup for coffee at work.

Some beautiful English on a beautiful dixie cup.

7) I ride the bus almost everyday. When I lived in Eugene, I hated riding the bus.  For some reason I really enjoy it here.  To get to work, David and I take two busses.  First, the 400 to Byeong-Cheon, then, we transfer to the 500 to our work.  We usually leave around 8:10 in the morning and get to work by 8:45 or earlier.  The total time on the bus is probably only around 10 minutes though.  I also discovered that if you scan your bus card again before you get off, you don’t have to pay for the second bus ride!  So to get to work it only cost us 1,350 won each vs the 6,000 won it cost to take a “call van”.

8)  I feel confused every single day of my life.  No matter how often I tell the children I don’t speak Korean, they don’t believe me.  They come up to me and speak whole paragraphs in Korean, to which I just give a confused shrug or say, “English only.”  I still don’t know our home address but luckily we live right across the street from Korea Tech University, so if we are lost we can always just tell a cab to take us there.  In the office, I feel like I NEVER know what is ACTUALLY happening.  It is like there our two realities.  David’s and my reality and the Korean reality.  We hear our boss speaking angrily in Korean, have no idea if he is mad or just speaking loudly let alone what he could potentially be mad about.  Go to a restaurant, order food, hope you didn’t order live octopus.  Even when Koreans can speak English to us, a lot of the time (especially with children) I can’t tell the difference because their accent is so thick.  This is why I desperately need to learn Korean.  I have no time right now though!

Can't understand the bus schedule?... Neither can we!

Can’t understand the bus schedule?… Neither can we!

9) I enjoy my job! Obviously there are stressful times or things I don’t like but for the most part, I enjoy my job, love even.  It’s is like my favorite things about camp only for shorter periods (which in my opinion is pretty great).  Hate the kids? They are leaving the next day!  Awesome kids? You just had the best day of your life!  Then there is the planning part which I enjoy almost as much as the camp days.  Plus, free meals, sledding, amusement park, and water park!  Pretty good gig if you ask me!

Me with my favorite team of kids so far!

Me with my favorite team of kids so far!