Samcheok Penis Park

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My friend Jon and I decided to explore the wonderful world of Penis Parks in South Korea.

The phenomenon of the penis park is an old part of Asian culture. It’s traditional for couples to get married, and then go to a penis park as part of their honeymoon.

Of course, now I suppose they are more of a tourist attraction than anything.

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I don’t want to post too many explicit pictures, but basically, it’s a lot of statues of penises.

I realize that it might seem strange to a Westerner. But you have to remember, ever culture has a different set of taboos.

In South Korea and Asia in general, it’s just not as big of a deal to depict a penis. I suppose Europe has had similar times in their history.

Anyhow, the Samcheok Penis park isn’t very impressive. It’s small, and there isn’t much to it. I am told that Jeju Loveland is much better.

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Christmas in Paris

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I know everyone says that Paris is beautiful in the spring, but I went for Christmas.

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It’s not that they don’t have Christmas in South Korea. They do. It’s sort of a date day where you go around with your significant other and look at trees.

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Korea is historically a Buddhist country, and it is only recently that Christmas even became a national holiday there because of pressure from the vocal minority who are Christian.

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Anyway, instead I went to Paris.

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I saw all the things you would expect, like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

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However, I also ventured off the beaten path to see Oscar Wilde’s grave in one of the cemeteries.

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I hate to be cliche, but the best part was definitely the food. The food in Paris really is the best.

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I ate everything! There was a little bakery by our hotel, and every morning the woman there would suggest breakfast pastries and pack us a lunch of meats and cheeses. It was heavenly.

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We stayed outside the city and took the train in each morning. It was much cheaper that way, and it was nice to see a little country town.

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Friends had suggested this after staying in the city and being kept up all night by the noise. If you are there to party until the middle of the night, then I suppose that is okay. That’s how some people vacation.

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But I went to see the sights, and so it was nice to be in a quite village.

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London is Lovely

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I went to London on a whim while I was on vacation in Paris. It was an inception style vacation within a vacation.

Really it was because my cousin Stacy Spence was going to college in Cardiff, and she agreed that if I took the train over from Paris, she would meet me in London and show me around.

We did a tour where you go around in a bus and stop to look at things, which was really lovely.

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Naturally we stopped for Fish and Chips in a pub as well, because I insisted. I had it with a pint of beer that our bar tender recommended.

Honestly, they were not the best fish and chips I ever had, but we’ll leave that to it being a pub outside St. Pancreas Station and not a five star resort or something.

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I have to say that the people were nice. When we got lost, my cousin asked for directions to the British museum by saying “Where is that building full of things you stole from other countries?”

Not only did the boys she asked have a good sense of humor about it, but they walked us over to the museum to make sure that we got there okay.

This is not the cold and unfriendly England that folks warned me about, but I guess maybe that’s just how they want us to see them, eh?

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Anyway it was really, very nice. It’s made me want to go back for a proper look when I have more time.

Until then, cheers London! You’re beautiful!

Winter in Korea

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I am ashamed to say that I spent an awful lot of winter staring out my window at this view.

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I know I should have gone out and done more. I should have had snowball fights and built snowmen.

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But the truth is, I grew up in Arizona. Snow is beautiful and magical to me. I love to watch it fall.

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However, I also love to make some hot chocolate and stay indoors.

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Even after I bought the right clothes (long underwear, better coat, etc) it was still just a bit much for me.

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But, from the window of a cafe, or my apartment, or a restaurant; it really is lovely.

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Hwacheon Ice Festival

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If you are ever in South Korea for the second week of January, you should go to the Hwacheon Ice Festival. It’s a wonderful example of a lot of my favorite things about Korea.

First, it is full of all the best festival foods like Hoedeok (a pancake with cinnamon and sugar inside) and other things sold at stands and in food tents.

However, it’s also a festival devoted to ice fishing, so in addition to festival food, you can enjoy fresh fish.

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Bundle up, of course.

If you are going to be on the ice with a fishing pole for hours at a time, you don’t want to get cold. I was in layers upon layers and I still think I lost feeling in my feet after awhile, but that’s outside in January, isn’t it?

(Well, in snowy places in the Northern hemisphere, anyway.)

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I also really enjoy the racism. No one does racism quite like South Korea.

There is an area for Koreans, and then off towards the back is the “Foreigner Area.” I lived in Korea long enough that I was accustomed to be corralled into “special areas” for people who were not Korean.

It’s not like racism in the USA where you get worse things and it’s institutional and horrible.

You just get separate things.

Sometimes the separate things are nicer. For example in this case, the area was mostly deserted and so it was easier to catch fish than in the main part of the river where everyone else was.

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Also, Koreans like to see white people in ads.

So, once I caught a fish I was swarmed by photographers.

They want the ads for the festival to feature smiling white people because it makes the festival seem more popular.

So here is a picture of me having my picture taken by several professional photographers, to be used in promotional materials.

They don’t ask for permission, by the way. I have been on TV and in ads, and I never consented to it. I don’t have to because as a foreign person I don’t have the intellectual property rights to my face. That’s a perk of citizenship, (which foreign people can’t really get.)

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Anyway back to fish.

It’s a celebration of fish.

And it’s a festival so there are all sorts of fun things. There is a “polar bear swim” where men jump into the frozen lake and catch fish with their bare hands while in their underwear. I watched. It was amusing.

There is also a giant ice castle that they build every year and fill with interesting facts about fish (you can walk through a tunnel on the inside that is full of “Fish Facts.”)

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But obviously the very best part was the rides and games, because that is what makes a festival fun, right?

I enjoyed that they had several things that would be considered “too dangerous” back home, such as races in go carts along the ice, and taking an ATV across the ice.

Naturally, if something is dangerous and stupid, the American in me says to do it. And so I did.

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I am still alive to tell the tale, and I highly recommend the ice festival if you happen to plan a trip to Korea in the winter. It’s a lot of fun.