Monday, October 26, 2009

4. One year on.. [Part2]

Fresh, fresh, fresh!!

Note: Blogger is playing up, not letting me put anymore on my previous post; thus the Part one and two. Please read the words here and see the pics below in Part1.

Well it’s been a year since I moved to this remote village somewhere in Korea. I must say that looking back on the past twelve months; it really has flown right by me. I’ve done so much, only a fraction of which I can recall at the moment.. hence this blog. I look forward to looking over these entries in years to come and reminiscing about the people, places, and memories I thought I had long forgotten.

As you would have guessed by now, Momma came over to visit for about two weeks. While she was here we did the touristy thing and went to Seoul. It’s a stunning time of year for anyone wanting to visit Korea. Sure it’s a little chilly, but the colours seen on the mountain tops and the rustling leaves that continually fall to the pavement are a sight to behold. For those reading this and thinking something along the lines of “what’s the big deal, its Fall”; you might want some clarification. In Australia we have two seasons, hot and cool.. so seeing all these colours and how the landscape changes so dramatically can be likened to a child seeing snow falling for the first time and thinking it’s the end of the world. ..and by the way, it’s AUTUMN.

Back to the point, I’ve had a few comments about the lack of pictures I’ve taken of Seoul. So with this in mind I went to Seoul and took a few happy snaps to show you folks back home that cities in Seoul, Moscow, NY or Brisbane all look basically the same. We did see a couple of the more popular tourist attractions so that’s basically all I shot. Truth be told, I don’t get any joy from taking pictures in a jungle of neat, systematically organized buildings - and suits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that cities aren’t beautiful in their own way, it’s just that personally I haven’t realised their beauty fully enough to capture it satisfactorily on my camera.

The pictures you see first are of Seoul Tower, Myeongdong, Insadong, and Itaewon War Memorial Museum. The food dish was up in the tower, we ordered tofu as the main and that’s what came out. It was alright, but like I told Momma, you don’t go up there for the main dish.. It’s the buffet side dishes up there that really make the mouth water. The padlocks you see symbolize couples’ undying love for each other. They lock two locks together with a message and then throw away the key and their love will forever be bound by each other. How typically over-dramatic. Next we caught a subway to Myeongdong which is Seoul’s city centre. We looked around for a while and then walked through Namdaemun open air markets.

The next bunch of pictures brings us to this weekend just passed. We spent a lazy weekend in Sangdong and really didn’t’ do too much at all. The air is so clean over here and the mountains so picturesque that we decided to go out for a picnic BBQ by the river. By far the best thing about this picnic was the Smore’s!! I had never had smores or even knew what they were until yesterday. We roasted marshmallows over the fire and got two crackers, one with a piece of chocolate on it. When the marshmallow had been roasted and puffed up to twice its size we put it on the cracker with the chocolate on it and then used the other cracker to sandwich them in. That’s what you see in that picture. We came back and I made something I’ve wanted to make for a long, long time! I made Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup and Vietnamese spring rolls. I couldn’t find any Hoisin Sauce in Seoul so I had to improvise and make my own.

The last set of pictures you see are just some random ones that I’ve taken here and there over this past month. The Buddhist Temple near my house, the sushi restaurant with their own fish farm and the landscapes are all quite self-explanatory. I’d like to draw your attention to the truck with the dogs and goats on them. Just like the “fish man” and “garlic man” mentioned previously, this is the local “dog man”. He comes around blaring speakers with “Gheeeeeeeh” (Dog), selling fresh dogs. I believe the customers choose which dog/goat they want and then he comes back a while later with them in a more delectable form.

Finally you’ll see the little gun. I found this in one of those 50c toy vending machines that give toys in little plastic containers. It made me think about why we didn’t have things like that in Australia.

Winter is really coming around again.. it’s sad to see all things here slowly go brown into hibernation. The colours will soon disappear and I’ll have to endure another long winter in Sangdong. I looked forward to the last since it was my first ‘real’ winter, but now I’m not looking forward to it anymore.. even the sun has started to lose its warmth.

3. One year on..[Part1]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2. ..and I wonder Why?

Overcast following some light rain during the night. Winters Coming!!
The village of Gurae in the Sandong district of Yeongwol, in South Korea’s Gangwon Province is the most peaceful place I have ever visited. It’s single lane street, sandwiched by a single row of dwellings and a mountain stream, winds along the bottom of a deep mountain pass. Almost from the back door of each dwelling, forested mountains rise vertically leaving only a narrow strip of sky visible above. At present as winter approaches, the mountains are alive with the red’s, yellow’s, brown’s and shaded greens of Autumn.

Chilli’s, white radish, cabbage, beans, onions and capsicum grow on every available inch of the limited horizontal land.
Tended mostly by elderly villagers squatting between the rows, and then laid out to dry along the roadside.

Relief follows the realization that an early morning wake up by a loud speaker announcement, from a white van patrolling the street, was not the warning of an imminent nuclear catastrophe,
Merely, the “veggie man” selling his wares, followed during the day by the “fish man” and the “garlic man”.

Drinking water is supplied from three large strategically placed stone turtles, constantly spurting water through their mouths, piped from the mountain streams high above, from which villagers fill their containers.
Crime is unheard of, doors are left unlocked, petty theft, graffiti, and anti social behaviours are incomprehensible. Ladies with spare time sweep public areas of fallen leaves, litter does not exist.

The village elementary school educates 31 children, including an English course facilitated by a dedicated foreign teacher.
The initial surprise of seeing foreigners in their village quickly changes to greetings and friendly gestures.
A group of road workers pausing for refreshments instantly invite we passing strangers to share their food!
The village café treats us as locals, shows us to our usual seats and cooks our evening meal at our table in front of us.
The local fuel pump attendant refuses to accept payment for hot coffee, even without the purchase of fuel, as does the store keeper and café owner.

During daylight hours in the most peaceful place I have ever visited, the mountains echo to the sound of unseen military aircraft high above.

Other men driven by other agenda’s.

And it makes me wonder why?
By Guest Blogger: Brian.

Monday, October 5, 2009

1. theory.


Sun is shining, but I it's intensity is fading again..

This past weekend presented me with a unique opportunity. Thursday was the day this school opened back in 1939, yep.. that makes my little school 70 years old! Then Friday was the Korean version of Thanks-giving, so I went on a four day holiday.

The plan was simple; we’ve seen most of this province.. time to visit another. We’ve also seen the sunrise many times over, so we thought it best to visit the west coast to watch the sun go down. After talking with some co-teachers, I discovered this place called Taean; a peninsula city, more specifically we were in Anmyeon which is a National Park reserve.

Here’s where we were, just south of Incheon.

In theory this was the perfect weekend. In theory.

I went and surprised Cassie at her place on Wednesday night and then relaxed on Thursday, doing basically nothing at all while she was at work. We left at 10am on Friday morning and it took us just under five hours to get to Kkotji Beach, Anmyeon. Here is what the west coast of Korea looks like. Notice the lack of barbed wire and military personnel?

Along the shoreline there were all these tents, huge red orange and blue tents that were actually seafood restaurants. We decided that we should try one of them out and see how Koreans do fresh seafood.. on the west side! As we sat down and pointed to the prawns swimming in a large tank, she brought us something wrapped in aluminum foil. She placed it on our own personal little BBQ, and told us not to touch it for a while. Next she brought us a kind of soup that was just made of clear broth with green onions in it and some clams. As we devoured those, she came over and unfolded the foil package to reveal this..

We sat there eating fresh seafood for a while and watching the sun go down below the horizon.

That night around 7pm we still hadn’t set up camp and I was starting to feel a little queasy from the prawns. More than anything I didn’t want the hassle of camping that night.. what if late at night I developed food poisoning and had to run to the bathroom ever two minutes? The bathroom was a cool 2km’s away! So, to Cassie’s disappointment we headed to a motel about 5 minutes down the road. It’s ok to do that kind of thing here as fully equipped motels cost less than $30AUD per night. We decided that we’ll get up early on Saturday morning, set up camp and then spend the day on the beach. Everything was going well, the weather was perfect as can be, and we set out a picnic egg salad sandwich for lunch.

I have always wanted to lay a Lovo all by myself and I thought it the perfect time to do it now. So I had got everything ready and gotten extremely excited about the prospect of doing something for the first time ever.. and guess what?

It went off without a hitch! Man it brought back so many memories!! Here's how I did it: First I dug the hole about 50-60cm's down. Next Cassie lit a fire in there with some large rocks at the fires' base. We built up the fire, let it burn for an hour or so (depending on the size of the rocks needed to heat), and then when the fire died down, I lay down some chicken wire. On top of the chicken wire (or mesh), I put some green leafy branches, on top of that more chicken wire, then on top of that I put the food. I covered the food with more leafy branches and then placed a wet towel over that. Tucked in the sides so the sand didn’t get too close to the food and then we buried it. We left it for 3 hours, dug it up and enjoyed the smoked-earthy flavour of our food!

After we dug it up, it was still too early to eat, so we packed it away and went to explore the shoreline. About 3km up the road from where we set up camp was this:

When we finally arrived back from watching the sunset, we looked across the sea and saw lightening and dark clouds. Then when we couldn’t see the squid fishers anymore we knew that it must be a big one. So we tried to set up the tarp over the tent but that really didn’t work. Now we had about 15mins before the storm hit us. We basically ran around like headless chooks for a while thinking of what to do next, and by the time we tried to do anything the storm hit us. We salvaged what we could and put it in the car. Then we sat in the car with the headlights on the tent, watching it be subjected the abusive wind and lashing after lashing of rain. When one of the tent stakes came loose we knew there was nothing left for it.. we rushed over and as quickly as we could we shoved everything in the car. We sat there shivering with the heater on full blast and after a minute had passed, disheartened, we made our way to another motel. So ended our long weekend of ‘camping’.

The next day dawned beautifully! We had a five hour drive home and the weather looked like it would hold up. We went through Yeongwol as well and thought we’d visit Seondol again before heading back to Sangdong.