Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm backkkkkkkk.  Long time, no update.  Almost 6 months!  Korea has become a home away from home.  Lately, with the return of warm weather, I've had the pleasure that comes from random sights and smells that take me back to my first few months here in Korea, when everything was new and exotic.  I want to say I haven't done much at all since December, but I'd obviously be lying!  Time continues to fly here, and I finally have an official last day of work. September 28th, 2012, will be my final day at school here in Korea.  Following that will be a few months of travel (more on that later) and I will arrive back in the USA some time just before the holiday season!  Of course, I'm excited to see everyone, I constantly think about home and all the things happening and the people that I miss dearly.  So what have I been up to over the past 6 months?  Here's some pictures and videos to give you an idea of it all!

In April and May, the weather has started getting much nicer in Korea.  Bucheon is sandwiched between Seoul and Incheon, which is a former suburb of Seoul and now a major city in it's own right, as it will be host of the 2014 Asian Games.  So being only a few blocks from the Incheon city border, I can say I'm a proud Incheon sports fan.  Baseball, I'm all about the SK Wyverans.  They are in Korea's Major League, SK is the team sponsor (a mobile phone company) and Wyverans is some sort of mythical creature from Korean folklore.  The stadiums are evenly split between home and away (small country, easy to travel for away fans I suppose?).  The pictures are from a game where the away side did not show up so much, but the video is form opening day, and the house was packed.  My friend Kieran and I ended up sitting in an aisle basically for that game, standing room only.  The great part of these games is how much effort the crowd puts into cheering! The entire time your team is up to bat, the crowd is doing various cheers, think European soccer matches!  

click on the pictures to see bigger images!

 Earlier in the year, I made my way to an Incheon United game.  Here is a video below of a little of the action from that game.  The team doesn't have quite a following, and I think only a few of the big teams in Korea have strong attendance at the games.  Apparently when rival teams show up, the stadium can get pretty full.  Not as fun as the baseball games, put fun to be close to the pitch.


Best part of the sports thus far in Korea? 

Major League soccer - about 12 bucks.  
Major League Baseball - 9 bucks

cost of food n booze at the games?  No worries here, you can bring in anything you'd like.  I recommend buying pizza and 2 liter jugs of beer at your local carry out just outside the stadium. Gotta love that policy..

Seoraksan National Park

Located on the east side of the country, on the shores of the East Sea (NOT Sea of Japan!!!), is the city of Sokcho and Seoraksan National Park, home to beautiful mountain ranges only a few miles inland from the shore.  I spent a weekend here at the beginning of May with friends and hiked up to Ulsanbawi rock, one of the more famous peaks in the mountain.  It was not easy! Incredibly steep stairs and several areas that if you chose to act like an idiot at, you would be dead pretty quickly.  Anyways, enjoy these pictures!

Sokcho Beach

Cool Sunset

Ulsanbawi rock inside Seoraksan National Park

they were raising money for temple renovation, 10 bucks for a message on a tile for the roof

myself in front of the temple area.  Side note, I now have prescription sunglasses, so no more double glasses usage!

A better view of the mountainous valley the temple is located in

giant Buddha statue

about halfway up the hiking trail is a temple located in the rocks.  This cliff wall next to it was covered with Buddhist sayings, which being so old are written in Chinese (Korea's hangul writing was invented only about 600 years ago(i think)))

amazing views!

a daring couple...

the rock covered peaks!

There were many trails here, we only did one.  I may try and make it back during the fall just before my departure from Korea in order to see the colors of the foliage take over the mountain sides..


Back in March I had the unique opportunity of staying in Geumsansa Temple in the central area of Korea. It's the head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.  My thoughts? Don't do a temple stay for the food!  It was a great experience.  We spent most of the day Saturday there and stayed the night, leaving early Sunday afternoon.  Things I did:

-We got to ring the bell!  You know the giant bells you see at old temples in Asia? Yep, got a chance to ring it. Kind of thought these were never rung, but it's the call to prayer always. 

-We made Lotus Flower Lanterns. We used these lanterns on our night prayer walk through the temple grounds. The lotus flower grows out of the mud, so you can see how they work nicely from a religious viewpoint.

Here's some more photos of the temple...

the main temple with a three story high Buddha statue. This is where I did 108 bows, one for each bead that I placed on my prayer bracelet.  It was intense, and got pretty damn cold..

the temple hall at 4am!

Our monastic meal was on Sunday morning at 530am.  You can see below how there are four bowls: one for dish water, one for rice, one for soup, and one for sides (radish/kimchi stuff).  You MUST eat all the food, no wasting food!!!!!!  To top it off, cleaning the bowls involved swishing water around each bowl, scrubbing them each with a radish.  Then, you must drink the water and eat the radish...yucky.  Oh well, it was an experience!


Here are some random photos and things I have done!

Here is a video of a wedding I went to. Unfortunately my camera died right after this. This is when the moms of the bride and groom light the candles.  Just to give you an idea. Weddings aren't taken as seriously as we take the ceremonies in the West.  While the wedding looks really nice (and is), but this hall is one of several on the top floor of a department store.  Every ceremony is the same, and you can see these two girls in the video kind of leading the crowd in applause and such. Really cookie cutter like.  No party afterwards, just a really good buffet right after.  Best part? During the ceremony, the best man gives a challenge to the bridge and groom.  His challenge to the groom? To give a piggy back ride to the brides mother, running up and down this runway you can see, and then shouted "tonight I'm making babies!".  I was pretty surprised, but this is normal tradition!

Some electric car presenting a bride and groom to the lobby area.  It made a tiny lap then was parked again. Interesting right?? This bride and groom wore tradition Korean clothing.  By the way, most Koreans I gathered don't necessarily enjoy going to weddings, most want to get in and out.  There are kids constantly chatting and running around at the ceremony, and general conversation can be heard in the crowd.... 
Grace, the bride, with some of the girls.  The bride sits in this room on a throne like chair, receiving guest before the wedding??  She seemed thrilledddddddd to do it.

Cool buildings in Gangnum, a kinda rich area of Seoul.  Finally cool to see some interesting architecture here!

Seoul tower. Beautiful views of Seoul!

Lockets for lovers locked to the fences around Seoul tower.

Earth Hour at a big subway station, we noticed all these dominoes set up, to be released at the hour.

I sent birthday cards to my mom made by my students in a kindergarten class.  These kids are about 6 years old, and come for all English kindergarten! Awesome! Here are the kids making the cards!

Miss you all!! Going to Jeju Island this weekend, the "Hawaii" of Korea. It's also a 4 day weekend, thanks to Buddha's birthday. So I will have some incredible pictures, and I will try posting about my adventures more often!