Yet another reason I love Seoul.

September 5, 2010

Living in the city it is easy to suffer from concrete overload. It seems everything is paved over, and choked with car exhaust and pollution.  And there are so many people, all over, all.the.time.

So it is nice to get away and back to nature. Here in Seoul, you don’t even have to leave the city.  Seoul is surrounded by mountains, and even in Incheon and Suwon, there are many places that are green and beautiful, and you can walk trails surrounded by trees and fresh air.

Saturday I went on a meet-up in Incheon. I took a friend and we went to Jung-dong station in Incheon, near Bucheon.  The station is small, but they had a cool display of insects, and some were quite humorous. My favorite was the battle of beatles in front of a castle. I also liked the butterflies.

At 9 am we all met up, and started for the hills.  It was an easy climb, and it was early enough, but the heat really took it out of everyone. I started getting out of breath and sweaty fairly early.  But I persevered and was rewarded with a gorgeous view of Incheon from the top of the hills, and although this is Korea so even the mountains are fairly crowded, there still were places of quiet and green beauty.

After climbing, we went out to eat, then I bought a sewing machine from a girl who is leaving this week. I also snagged a bunch of spices, unfortunately they are all jumbled up, and I don’t have any labels. I think dinner is going to be interesting for the next few weeks.

I felt virtuous enough today to only take a quick bike ride, and after I had a pretty good lunch. I liked the name of the restaurant (noodles in the kitchen) and had a chicken and peanut fettuccine.  It was an interesting combination that worked very well.  I didn’t expect to go there, I was originally going to get bosam ( boiled pork that is wrapped in sour kimchi – it tastes way better than it sounds) – but the place I thought was bosam was really just  an army ji gae –  or spam with noodles in hot sauce – not exactly what I was looking for. Anyway I didn’t bring my camera, so no pictures of the chicken and peanut fettuccine, but it was awesome. Then a thunderstorm came up just in time for me to be able to watch “inside man” without too much guilt.

Sometimes life is good.

Some more pictures for your enjoyment – because I love you.

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She’s back

July 4, 2010

Although to be honest my week wasn’t all nose to the grindstone.  I have 80% of the workbook done, but decided to take a break this weekend.  I was working on a skit kit ( where I give my students 5 cards in an envelope: a character, a noun, an adjective, a verb, and a place – for the travel kit I also had modes of transportation, and give them time to write a short skit or dialog  using the words once and then they perform it)  I knew I was totally burned out when I was staring at the screen, trying to think of adjectives and my mind was totally blank.

But as I said, it hasn’t been total nose to the grindstone time.  We were giving the final exams last week, so the teacher’s could go home at 1 pm.  I stayed late-ish on Tuesday, but then after my co-teacher’s meeting the two of us got on our bikes and went from school to the Han river – It was a bit longer than I usually go but the ride was pleasant, and I got to find out how to get to a couple of places I wanted to go before.  Plus my co-teacher is an excellent biking companion.

Wednesday all the teachers went to Coex mall for lunch. We were awarded by SMOE for something, I’m not quite sure what, but  we did something very well.  So.  I thought it would be an average buffet, like VIPs or similar to the all you can eat Chinese buffet.  No. Not like that at all. It wasn’t in the mall, but the convention center, and it was very fancy.  The food was awesome. I started with salad, they had a shrimp and greens with balsamic dressing, a smoked salmon salad, a chicken caesar’s salad, and a few more that I’m not sure what to call them, but they tasted pretty darn fine. Then there was spaghetti with cream sauce – made to order, roast beef, some kind of tofu thing that was just divine, deserts that were .. let’s just say… oh my god… and well, I did try to eat into their profit but was unable to do so.   By the time we were finished I felt food coma-ish.   After lunch, the film club of our school invited some of us to see a movie.  We saw Knight and Day, with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  I’m not a big fan of either, but I actually quite liked the movie.  Even though I got home fairly early, I did not have the energy or ambition to do much of anything. So I turned on the TV and opened up a jigsaw puzzle.

I did make up for it by working late on Thursday.  Friday was my first Korean class. Woot!  I don’t think the teacher speaks English very well, and you know, since I teach English without knowing Korean very well, I think it is ok.  The class has 11 students, from all over the world. There are three guys from India, a woman from Thailand, a woman from Ireland ( we had met before at the SMOE orientation, but I hadn’t seen her much since then) several other Americans, a guy from Germany, a woman from Hong Kong and another guy from Mainland China.  We mostly learned the Korean alphabet and a few phrases.  The class is for two hours, and it is quite intense. We actually went pretty fast and even though I was familiar with everything I felt a bit overwhelmed.

Saturday, the dance teacher in our school had invited me and my co-teacher to see a dance performance by one of the professors in Korea’s version of Julliard.  It was fantastic.

The first part was a solo by Chun Mi Sok, (the professor) – the title was adieu my love, and it started with a red cloth that covered the stage reminding one of blood. I’m pretty sure red cloth on the stage is a standard metaphor for blood. The music was industrial sounds and silence and although at first I found it disconcerting, by the end of the performance I thought it a perfect choice.  She was dressed in a Korean housewife house dress, and through out the dance, or maybe it was the point of the dance, she tried to escape or at least expand the small space that was her life.  In part of the performance they had a screen where they showed her past performances where she danced with such passion as she tried to get out from under a funeral table ( it is a traditional custom, on the anniversary of  one’s parents or grandparents death, the wife must make an offering of many traditional foods laid out on a special table. – It is always the wife’s duty)  The dance itself was at once disturbing, sad and very beautiful.

The second act of the performance was Amore Amore Mio performed by a rather large company. Like the title suggests the subject of the dance was about love.  Love or a heart was represented by a coffee cup and saucer, and the first part was done totally in silence. One dancer used a very slow heavy rumba walk carrying the cup, offering it up.  Two other dancer’s came on stage and then the other dancers arrived, with two running across the stage chasing each other.  They would run into other dancer’s arms, until finally one cup was broken.  The rest of the dance was very athletic and dynamic. When they finally partnered up,  instead of the traditional music, they had a man with a Germanic accent saying numbers and expressions of time that the dancers moved to.  It was quite stunning and at times amusing.

After, my co-teacher and I had dinner together.  I really enjoy  her company. We talked about art, and people’s roles in society and how they are changing, and a bit about work.  When it was time to go home, I reached to hug her. In Korea, hugs aren’t that common. Holding hands is, but not hugging. So there was a bit of an awkward second, but then we did hug, and said good-bye.   I was thinking on the subway home, when do people become friends?   If you look at my co-teacher’s and my life on paper, you would not pair us up as friends. We have a few things in common yes, but she is Korean, married and has a child, I am American, single and I don’t have children.  Yet, when I’m with her I feel very comfortable. We talk easily and when there is nothing to say, we are quiet together just as easily.  We have enough in common I think, but how much doesn’t really matter.  I enjoy her company.