Life in the ROK

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

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What up. Just wanted to clarify my statement about Korea becoming comfortable as a developed nation. I ain't mad at Koreans or anything and don't want anyone to get the wrong idea.

There are corollaries in the American experience to the manmade fountain in a natural lake in the blog entry below. For example, the Gettysburg National Tower, which was erected in 1974. Personally I kind of liked it and appreciated the expansive view of the Gettysburg battlefield. Many, however, considered it an eyesore and an insult to the integrity of the site, so much so that it was imploded in 2003.

It's been shown that trash and litter disappear as countries become developed. Countries clean up when their people get enough wealth to have some leisure time to perceive their physical surroundings and think about aesthetics. Then they act. In the US that is evident in the renovation of former industrial neighborhoods etc into parks and other uses, e.g. most of Manhattan.

It's interesting to be in Korea now and see it so soon after becoming a developed nation. This country was just ash and rubble barely 50 years ago, and before that not much better. Koreans only were able to own and drive their own cars as little as 20 years ago and threw off the shackles of military dictatorship around the same time. Now South Korea is the 10th largest economy in the world and will freely elect its 5th president in December this year. It's an exciting experience to be here and so closely to see it emerge on the modern stage as a great nation.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I have had a few requests from friends who wanted to see my expanding waistline. I am now 4.5 months pregnant.
Jay also thought he should be included in this photo essay of us at 4.5 months......I am really not sure what he is trying to say by this photo. I guess our kids will be well entertained.
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Yesterday I went hiking with my Korean employees. We went to Sanjeongho, which is about 2 hours northeast of Seoul. Sanjeongho translates to Grand Tetons of Korea.
Sanjeongho is famous for its pampas grass, which seems to be a symbol of Korea.
Four of us made it to the top: Sergeant Vasquez, my new doc Adam Ash, me and Mr. Choe. Mr. Choe is my admin assistant and is an expert in execution as well as an avid hiker. He doesn't execute people. He is awesome at doing whatever I ask him to.
This is the view of Sanjeongho from the top. Ho means lake, so this is Sanjeong Lake. Yes, that's a fountain in the lake. It's not natural. Koreans have a tendency to embellish natural beauty like this. Maybe that will stop when they are comfortable being a developed nation?
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All Koreans love to hike.
It seemed like all 55 million Koreans were hiking with us.
It was the Disneyland of hiking.
Then we rode the Taga Disco.
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Mr. Choe brought some treats for the hike. These are boiled silkworm larvae, which we've seen around Seoul ever since we arrived but have been afraid to try up to this point. Working up the courage, you know. Mr. Choe said these are popular with the older generation who grew up eating them because they didn't have enough to eat in the years after the war. The younger generation doesn't have the same fond memories.
The Korean word sounds like cocoon and they are more scary to look at than anything. They have a firm consistency and not a bad taste, although I don't know exactly what to compare them to. Maybe chicken? You can also see the fading evidence of my bike crash last week. Don't worry, the bike is fine.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

I recently had the opportunity to visit a Korean elder home, because of the work I am doing with the AFSC (American Forces Spouses' Club.) We give money to Korean welfare organizations and then get to visit some of the places we fund. The old folks who live here do not have any family in Korea so the house gives them a place to live and eat for free and has to raise money to support the three homes they run. The AFSC donated money for an industrial clothes dryer and recently approved more money for a custom made refrigerator. In this picture the people who live at the home are singing a song for us. They were very happy to have visitors and kept asking if we would come back tomorrow.
Here I am picking Asian Pears for the home. One of the ways they make money is by selling the pears from their orchard, so we picked a bunch for them while we were there. In return they sent us each home with a box of freshly picked pears which were delicious.
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A few weekends ago Jay and I went to Pusan, (actually pronounced Busan, but in the confusing way that translations are done here it is sometimes written with a P and sometimes with a B, yes this often makes reading maps more difficult.) Busan is a port city located in the southernmost part of South Korea, and is the second largest city in Korea. We have been wanting to go down there on the high speed bullet train and decided the Film Festival was a good excuse. Although it was a little tough to get tickets we managed to see three films, one Korea, one Japanese, and one Chinese. The Korean film was completely depressing, the Japanese one so completely monotonous we could hardly sit still, and the Chinese one was excellent. If you even have the opportunity to see "The Sun Also Rises" do and let us know what you think.

And for those of you that don't know (although frankly at this point I don't think there are many of you our there considering the mouths on my family) yes I am pregnant. You can just barely tell here, I am already quite a bit bigger and am now 17 weeks along.
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Finishing up Mom and Dad Baker's visit. We took them to the Noryanjim fish market. They were down with the crab. Everybody's down with crab.
They took advantage of their new Senior status and pushed some middle aged Koreans out of the special seats on the subway. Mom's snow white hair was especially convincing. Even older Korean ladies would jump out of their seats since everyone dyes their hair here.

Another Korean dress up parade. And a beautiful day to hike up to the Seoul Tower.
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A couple follow up photos from our trip to China. We went exploring our first day in Beijing and found some tasty treats. Yum, tasty sea horse and scorpion treats!
This teenage vendor asked me for something like $40 for a set of bamboo coasters. I scoffed at her and turned to leave so she tackled me and pulled me back with a better offer. Literally tackled me, put me in a headlock and gave me a noogie until I finally gave in and bought the things for about $7.
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