Life in the ROK

West goes East: The lives and adventures of a Californian couple living in Seoul

Friday, July 27, 2007

See the entry below for the start of the climbing story. Here are Chris and I at the top of Insubong about to head down.
Here's Chris setting up the 150 foot rappel off the side. We made it safely down but the rappel was by far NOT my favorite part of the climb. Sketchy.

Thanks Chris! Good luck in Washington (and Iraq).
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Last week I went rock climbing at Insubong, a 600 foot crag near Seoul, with Chris Strode, my ex-boss. He was leaving for Washington State in a couple of days and had climbed this rock a few times before. We were headed for a crack system on the left side of the rock in this photo.
Chris led the 6-pitch route and placed all the protection. I had never climbed like this before, placing my own pro that is, and followed cleaning up the gear. Chris estimated it was 5.9 for the whole route. It was the best climbing I'd ever done and included crack, off width, and chimney sections. Here I am cranking a lay back in an off width.
It was one of those hazy days that are frequent this time of year and we couldn't see the city below us but could appreciate the valleys and neighboring peaks. I'm on belay at the bottom of this photo.
There's a balanced rock at the top and Chris is catching some shade and a rest after maybe 4 hours of climbing? If you look carefully, you can see hordes of Koreans on the neighboring peak, which has a stair system leading to it. Koreans love hiking and swarm the mountainsides on the weekends.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Recognize the 3 buildings on the left? They are the same buildings that we photographed a few weeks ago on a clear evening all lit up. Now we are in the midst of the monsoon season, where it is not uncommon to have %100 chance of rain in the weather forecast. It is a pretty amazing experience living in a country with such extreme weather.....this is not CA!!!
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Monday, July 23, 2007

This weekend Jay and I went to the Boryeong Mud Festival. We traveled by train about 2.5 hours to get to Daechon Beach where the festival has been held for the last few years. Boryeong mud is supposed to be very good for your skin. There is a Boryeong mud center that sells skin treatments and special soaps all year around, but the festival is the only time you get to use the mud for free!!! Here I am standing next to one of the peaceful mud people.
After jumping in a mud bath we applied mud with paint brushes that were set up in mud buckets around the event.
This is Daechon Beach were we swam after getting all muddy.....obviously a pretty popular place.
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After we got cleaned up we walked down the boardwalk to see what was going on in Daecheon. And just when we were feeling a bit parched the Korean Coka Cola Club rolled up on their matching scooters and gave us some Diet Cokes.
Jay loves shellfish!!! After our day at the mud festival we wandered into an outdoor Shellfish Grill restaurant. You just throw the closed shells on the grill and wait until they open up, then they are ready to dip in some Kochujan (spicy pepper paste) and are mmmmm delicious.
Ooops this pictures in sideways, but maybe that is fitting for Jay's homage to the shellfish gods.
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

We went on a day trip to an island in the Yellow Sea today called Deokjeokdo. There is a nice little archipelago of about 100 islands west on Incheon harbor, where the airport is, and this little island we visited is there. We were greeted by some ajummas hawking the local wares. Mmm, tasty!
The tides are pretty extreme, up to 36 feet difference, and were the reason the amphibious invasion by McArthur in September 1950 took place in two stages. In this case it left a few fishing boats high and dry.
We went on a little hike up the island hill. It was beautiful and, unlike the trails around Seoul that resemble its crowded freeways, empty! We half expected to find Rashomon around the next corner.
On our way out, we ran into the local deity: The Fishing Man. We paid obeisance for Tyler and went on our way.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Last night Jay and I went to a Boney M concert with our Japanese friends Yoko and Hiro. Never heard of Boney M? Neither had we until Yoko loaned us a DVD of some of their concerts from the late seventies through the eighties that she bought from a bootleg DVD stand in Korea. They are, how to say? Maybe something like pop-Afro-funk-space-travelers? We had no idea they were even still performing so when Yoko and Hiro invited us to the concert we couldn't say no. The concert was really fun even thought Boney M replaced 2 of their original members and their costumes were a little toned down from what they wore in the 80s. We decided we should dress up a bit too, although we learned after arriving that this is not the Korean thing to do...apparently just the American and Japanese thing to do. Here is a YouTube video of one of their famous songs, Daddy Cool.

This is the new view from our kitchen window. These buildings have been under construction since we moved to Seoul almost a year ago. We are still not sure what the landing pad looking thing on the top of the buildings is....maybe for helicopters?

Recently Jay and I took a trip to Okinawa to visit our friends Cara and Greg who are moving back to the US in a few weeks. We had a great time and enjoyed the slower pace of island life. Thank you Cara and Greg.

We took a ferry to an island about an hour from Okinawa called Ie island. We all rented bikes and explored the beaches, a small mountain peak, and rode down an abandoned air strip from WWII. Ie Island is where the famous war reporter Ernie Pyle died. Being on the island was like stepping back in time. The people are mostly farmers and there were only a few other Japanese tourists on mopeds that we saw over and over again since the island is so small.

Jay likes to try pizza everywhere he goes because, not only does he likes pizza, he wants to see what flavors different peoples like to have on their pizzas. In our modern world every culture seems to eat pizza but every one has their own special set of ingredients they like to have on it. This Okinawan pizza had kind of a sweet and salty plum sauce instead of your regular marinara. It also had corn and seaweed and amazingly was quite tasty.

Jay and I recently went to a party at the British Ambassador's house that was hosted by the Royal Asiatic Society. There was a performance by a Korean traditional music and dancing group. The performers swing the long strings on their heads by moving their necks in circles... it is pretty cool to watch but you can't get too close or you will get whipped by a whirling string.
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Saturday, July 07, 2007

A couple of years ago, I got some earwax candles for Christmas or something. Not candles made of earwax, rather these strange hollow conical things that are supposed to be used for treating earwax. Somehow these things made the move to Korea and have been hanging around like a chancre on King Henry so I finally decided to use them. Observe exhibition A to see how they work. Results were questionable.