Work Trip to Nami Island

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In South Korea they have a custom where you are expected to go out for meals and drinks with your coworkers, and occasionally take vacations together.

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You are supposed to spend a lot of time with your “work family” to build strong relationships.

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I didn’t really mind this most of the time, except for the pressure to get really drunk. Some nights my boss kept us out so late that she ended up buying us breakfast and cabs home.

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Don’t get me wrong, Jinah (above) was a wonderful boss and I adored her. I haven’t really had a bad boss yet, actually. It’s just that I am a bit old (in my opinion) to get home after sunrise.

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Anyway, for one of our work trips we went to Nami island. It seemed like an odd choice, because it’s sort of a love-themed island where people go for dates.

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However, at that time, Jinah was falling in love with her then-boyfriend (later husband), and I think she wanted us all to feel it too.

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The hearts everywhere were a little weird since we were all walking around as co-workers. But what can you do?

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It was a good adventure. I guess the most surprising part was how Koreans travel in groups. We had a two room hotel with one room for the boys, and one for the girls.

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We all laid out our mats on the floor and slept together. It’s not weird in Korea, but to an American it was a little unusual.

Overall, it was a fun trip and we saw a lot of cool things. We definitely bonded as co-workers, and I guess that is what it was all about.

If you do go to Korea, I recommend Nami island. It’s a fun little place to spend a weekend.

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The Trick Eye Museum

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There are a lot of great things to do in Seoul, and one of them is the Trick Eye Museum.

Jenifer DeLemont

It’s just a bunch of walls painted so you can take pictures with them, but it’s a lot of fun.

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It’s best in a group, because some of the walls are better with two or three people in them. But it’s fun to do the ones that are just for one person as well.

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Some of them walls have holes in them so you can more easily become part of the picture.

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It only takes about an hour to walk through, and it was about $12 to get in.

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If you are ever in Seoul, I definitely recommend The Trick Eye Museum.

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Around Busan City

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Busan is a port city in the Southern part of South Korea. It’s a wonderful place to go on a weekend trip. I have taken the KTX (high speed train) down several times when I had a few days free.

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Some of the attractions are very unique. For example, Busan has the only UN cemetery in the world, because many of the allied soldiers who died defending South Korea in the Korean War are buried there.

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It also has a bustling fish market, as you would expect in a port city. I am told that there is also fabulous shopping, but shopping has never really been my thing.

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However, my very favorite part is the area part of Busan called Haeundae. This is where you come to see the beach, and it is a beautiful beach.

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There is also a wonderful wooden path along the cliffs where you can see statues of mermaids, lighthouses, and other great stuff.

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I wanted to go to the Busan Aquarium, and you would think that would be pretty easy. The map said it was right on the beach, but I admit, I missed it on my first pass. The entrance is a little shark statue, and the entire rest of the aquarium is under ground.

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The Busan Aquarium is reasonably priced and has a good range of things to see, from turtles to fish, and even a shark tank with a tunnel through it.

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I could spend an entire day there myself, but I really love watching fish swim around. There is something so peaceful about it.

One tank (which is huge) is all full of different kinds of coral and fish, and it has amphitheater seating around it so that you can just get comfortable in the air conditioning and enjoy the view.

I definitely recommend dropping in to give it a look.

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Another wonderful thing to do is hop a bus to the temple near Haeundae beach. They have a sunrise ceremony, which I managed to catch only once. But the rest of the day it is just a beautiful place to enjoy ocean views and see awesome things.


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Some people will tell you that if you have seen one temple, you have seen them all. I do understand this attitude, but to me, they all have their own personality and unique features.

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I find the buildings peaceful and relaxing, the monks welcoming, and the crafts for sale to always be beautiful.

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At this particular temple, they have a special place by the sea to practice rock stacking. This is a Buddhist practice that is supposed to be calming, and I admit, I did find it to be a nice activity on a windy afternoon.

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If you go to Busan and you are looking for things to do, there is certainly no shortage. These are just a few things that I did, and that I thought were fun.

Oh, and I have to add this billboard because I think it is hilarious. In Korea, it is okay to put cuss words in advertisements as long as they are not in Korean. (We do the same thing in the US. I could own a business named a Korean cuss word and no one would care.)

So, here is the Mini Cooper billboard I saw in downtown Busan.

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Everland (the happiest place in Korea!)

In all of South Korea, is there any happier place than Everland? I think not.

Before I begin this entry, I should remind you all that I’m still in Suwon, South Korea. More about that (if you care) on the Bio page.


Everland Entrance



Now then, I am a pretty big fan of Disneyland. As a matter of fact, I’m about 5 years old on the inside; so I’m a pretty big fan of anything designed to appeal to kids. I guess you should bear that in mind when you read this, since the epic awesome that I’m about to describe might not be quite as amazing to a proper adult.



Me and tulips



First, Everland has rollercoasters! Who doesn’t like to be twirled around and terrifying angles and high speeds? T-Express, one of the coasters you can ride at Everalnd, is actually the largest wooden rollercoaster in the world. However, if you have small children or are afraid of that feeling in your stomach just after a rollercoaster reaches the top of a hill and just before it goes down, fear not! They have smaller and less frightening rides for you, too. It’s like Disneyland in that it’s a theme-park that has a little something for everyone.



T-Express




For example, maybe you love animals. In that case, you’ll want to take the safari ride and see the Lions and Tigers. They even have a Liger, which seems to be what happens when a Lion and a Tiger really love each other. I’m not a huge fan of such things, and was more entertained by the pretty birds. I love colorful stuff because, as I said before, I really am about 5 on the inside.



Pretty Birds




Evrland also has a positively amazing garden. It’s really big, and really beautiful. I highly recommend taking a stroll through it and enjoying whatever is in season. It just so happened that when I visited, that was tulips. However, if you go in the summer, I’m told the roses are breath-taking.



The gardens



It really doesn’t matter if you have kids or if you just go on your own. You’ll find something you love at Everland. Also, for you English-speakers, nearly everything is in both English and Korean, so you don’t have to worry about seeing neat animals and not being able to figure out what they are called.



Is one of these King Julian?



To get there from Suwon station, the nice ladies at the tourism office assured me that there are city buses which are cheap. I guess I could have done that, but I didn’t want to. So, I went down to the taxi stand and asked to be taken to Everland (in English). The cab driver knew right where to go and it wasn’t that expensive. I think I paid 25,000 Won, which I considered well worth it.



House in the little kid's area



Oh, and I should mention that the tickets to get into the park are about 35,000 Won. So, it’s cheaper than Disneyland, as well as being totally fantastic.



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Club Spot in Hongdae, Seoul

If you’re looking for counter-culture in Korea, check out Club Spot!





There are a lot of amazing places to go in Seoul, South Korea. There’s the art district in Insadong. There’s the foreigner district called Itaewon. But my favorite place of all is Hongdae, and my favorite place in Hingdae is The Spot.







The Spot is right across the street from Hongik University. If you walk out of exit 12 from the Hongdae subway station, you pass the KFC was hang a left at the first street. It’s on the right, just before you reach the university. Across the street is a really cool park where they often have musicians, street performers, and tents set of with all kinds of cool vendors.







Club Spot is a venue, but their alcohol supply seems to increase every time I go in there, so I think it would be fair to call it a bar too. Some of the coolest bands I’ve seen in Korea, I have seen there.







A recent show I went to that was really fantastic had Loyal to the Grave and Day of Mourning; two really spectacular hardcore bands.







I’ve had some good times at The Spot. I’ve seen a lot of the counter-culture in Korea, which is hard to see. When you first arrive in Korea, it’s easy to see nothing but trendy stores and K-pop. However, when you take some time to delve into the various sub-cultures, you’ll find a lot more cool stuff than the surface club scene might lead you to expect.







I sincerely recommend Club Spot as a killer party place when you’re staying up late in Seoul.



Seasons

Seasons in Suwon, South Korea are striking to me. It may be because I’ve never seen seasons, and it may be because Suwon is stunning. I don’t know. Check the pictures out though.

The Desert




I am from Phoenix, Arizona. We don’t have seasons there. The grass is always green. The trees always have leaves. And, there is no time of the year when you need a coat at noon.



So much snow!




Living in Suwon, South Korea has given me my first experience with seasons. It’s amazing to have the world around you constantly transforming. I arrived in winter, which was my first experience living in snow. Sending me from Phoenix, Arizona to a place to Suwon, South Korea in January was like throwing a cat in a bathtub.



Cherry Blossoms in the spring




On the other hand, winter was beautiful. Everything looks so fancy when it’s frosted in snow! And, while I thought winter was awesome, spring was absolutely amazing. I was in awe of all the soft petals drifting down from roof gardens and planters all around me.



Heat and water and plants everywhere!




Summer was hot, which I am used to. However, it was really humid, which I am not used to. I discovered something about humidity though; it helps plants grow! I am used to scrub bushes and cactus. The surrounding got so lush in summer it seemed like everything was growing.



Pretty lake and trees on fire




Now it’s fall. I was impressed with winter, spring, and summer. Then the leaves started changing color and I realized fall was the greatest season ever! I have never seen so many wonderful colors.



Pretty Korean lady in front of orange trees




So, to all my wonderful Phoenicians; visit anytime. Seasons are positively fantastic! And Suwon is a beautiful city to experience them in.



In the city with the pretty trees

Nami Island

Nami Island was a lot of fun. There is a lot of beautiful artwork, and the plants and animals are fantastic.

Winter Sonata was filmed on Nami Island




Nami Island is an enchanting place. Most people go there because the movie “Winter Sonata” was filmed there. Sadly, the star of “Winter Sonata,” Park Yong-Ha, recently killed himself. In spite of this, it’s a very lovely island.



Huts on Nami Island




Nami Island has a lot of really wonderful artwork. There are a few galleries, but there are also several sculptures around the island.



Some nifty statues near the boat dock




In addition to the artwork, there are several varieties of wildlife. Ostriches, rabbits, squirrels, and a variety of colorful small birds roam the island freely.



Friendly Ostrich




Love is certainly the overall theme of the island, which makes it an excellent place to take a loved one. There are several hearts around the island.



Some of the many hearts of Nami Island




Many couples take pictures with the various hearts around the island.



Another of the hearts on Nami Island



Renting a bike is an excellent way to see the island. Unfortunately, the bicycle-rental area is kind of a hike from the boat dock. But if you follow the main path, you’ll come to it. There are several lovely trails that you can ride on.


A pretty bike path



Take time to stop and look at all the interesting art in random places.



Statue of lovers




I spent about two hours on Nami Island. I could have spent a lot longer there, as there is a lot to do. I could certainly see spending a day there. There are restaurants and even a place that serves beer.



More statues
More statues




If you visit Gangwon Province in South Korea, I recommend taking a tour of Nami Island. It’s definitely beautiful, and touring the island was a wonderful experience



Wood statues

Suwon’s Folk Village

Suwon’s Korean Folk Village is a great place to spend a day. Break out your walking shoes and give it a try!

The lake (with traditional boat)



Suwon’s Folk Village is a really interesting. It’s a re-creation of a historic Korean Village. There aren’t any original historic villages in Korea, because most of their historic buildings were destroyed during WWII and the Korean War. But this re-creation looks really authentic and it was really neat to tour.



These are the prayers people have left.




I have always had the impression that in America we don’t think much about history. I guess this has a lot to do with the fact that we really don’t have much in the way of history to think about. Our country is younger than the Korean written language (Han Gul) which revolutionized writing in this part of the world in the mid-fifteenth century.



Traditional Korean House



The history we do have is sordid, and we try to forget it and pretend slavery and the extermination of the native people happened long ago and should be respectfully swept under the rug where no one can see it.



Me in front of an aristocrat's house




From the perspective of an American, Korea has an amazing history. It’s thousands of years of mostly peaceful and spiritual lives farming the land. The Korean Folk Village in Suwon demonstrates this history very well with old farm equipment, re-creations of ancient houses, and even rows of traditional crops.



Tight rope walker




Don’t get the impression that the Folk Village is like a museum. There is a lot going on. From traditional wedding ceremonies to tightrope walkers, there is plenty to see in the way of entertainment. And the more I learn about Korea and its people, the more impressed I am with their heritage. It makes me feel like a punk kid sometimes coming from such a young and vain country. Meanwhile thousands of years of the Korean’s ancestors’ bones are buried here. It really makes you think.



A parade with traditional clothes and music




I was thrilled with the parade of people playing traditional Korean instruments because I bought my grandmother a Korean drum, and she wanted a picture of someone playing it. So now I have one to show her.



Just a haystack. But it made me smile. How often do you see a haystack just chillin' like this?




I admit, Korea isn’t anything like this anymore. Its one MacDonalds after another, and girls running around with Gucci handbags. But seeing it for what it used to be makes you appreciate the perspective these people have on life, (even if they are currently importing a mass amount of our worst culture here.) Americans may have cornered the market on being an upstart country with fresh ideas and dreams too big for reality; but Koreans blend our culture with something we know nothing about: Moderation. And when you mix it with such a novel and un-American concept, it’s really not so bad.



Me and a stone lion in a quiet little garden area.




I particularly like Buddha. I mean, nearly everyone here is a Christian now… but Buddha’s ideas live on in their society even as they convert en mass. We could stand to import some of those ideas ourselves, and it wouldn’t hurt us to get some historical perspective either.



The Buddha is everywhere, even as the nation becomes Christian




I would recommend the Korean Folk Village to anyone who visits. It was a fun day, and it’s a very peaceful place. (Oh, except for the huge kid’s play land. That’s not peaceful at all- though it looks like a paradise for children.)



Kid's play land inside the Korean Folk Village

The Art of Sumo

Korean sumo match- Seoul South Korea. Off the beaten path.

I had read about sumo wrestling. I had heard it was an ancient Asian art form. But to be honest, it all sounded kind of boring, until I actually saw it.



The wrestlers being introduced




The position the fighters have to be in is precarious, to say the least. They have to hold each other in specific places, and then try to push or flip their opponent. Of course, because they are stuck holding each other, they have no leverage, and so it is based almost entirely on strength. It’s really impressive to watch.



The Starting Position




I looked up Sumo wrestling on Wikipedia, and I was horrified to find the entry stating that Sumo is only practiced professionally in Japan. The match I went to was in Seoul, Korea! Clearly the Wiki page is wrong.



One way to win- throw your opponent down
First way to win- throw your opponent on the ground




However, Sumo did start in Japan. I suppose the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII influenced their culture more than they want to admit.



Other way to win- push your opponent out of the ring




My friends and I were the only non-Korean audience members, with the exception of two other guys. I guess it’s not something tourists generally participate in. However, that does not mean tourists are unwelcome. When our group walked in, we got a very warm welcome from the Koreans, who helped us find our way to our seats and gave us balloon sticks to clap with.



The balloon clapping sticks they gave us.




The matches were exciting, but there was a lot more than that. Traditional Korean dancers and even cheerleaders added to the event to make it far more than just a wrestling match. It was a cultural experience.



One of the dancers in a very fancy Korean outfit.




I would highly recommend attending a sumo match if you travel to Korea. It is a unique experience that most tourists don’t see, and it’s definitely worth checking out.



One of the cheerleaders. Sumo isn't popular with young people so I expect the cheerleaders are supposed to help with that.




Best moment ever: I was amazed at how big the wrestlers were (after all- I’m a big westerner and Koreans seem kind of small to me.) Suddenly it occurred to me that the wrestlers aren’t huge at all. They are just the average size of Americans! That made me laugh.



The winner being honored

Moved to Korea

I’ve moved to Asia for awhile. Had to get out and see the world, as much as I love Phoenix.

I’ve moved to Asia for awhile. I really do love Phoenix, but sometimes you need to get out. So here is a bit about my new adventure.



The mountain next to the building I work in.




First, Korea is not a third world country. I heard a lot of silly things like that when I announced I was moving here. For the record: It’s much more modern than the US. We have great public transportation and fantastic medical care, not to mention thousands of years of interesting culture. Plus, the buildings are more modern than in the US and we have nifty doors that slide open when you walk up, just like in Star Trek. You may not hear a lot about Korea as a citizen of the US, but that’s not because there’s nothing going on here. The US is just a bit… self-absorbed.



This is Korean Money. Pretty neat, huh?




Yes, North Korea is communist. Yes, they are our neighbors. But the North Koreans and South Koreans view themselves a lot like separated cousins. If North Korea attacks anyone, it won’t be us. They would rather convince their cousins to join them. I worry more about my friends in the US than I do about myself.



Yeoungtong, in the city of Suwon




No, I am not being deprived of all things American. From 7-11 to MacDonalds, there are plenty of American things here. They even sell Pringles at the corner store. I can get almost everything here that I can get in America.



At the grocery store.




So to put it quite simply; it’s not anything like people seem to think. It’s much nicer. And no, I am not here as a journalist. I am not going to sneak across the border into North Korea for some story on Communism. I am actually just here for adventure. I am teaching English to pay for it. It’s a lot of fun, and I promise to stay away from North Korea.



Best Strawberries ever