Life in the ROK

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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Elisa and Scott visited us for Thanksgiving. We had a great time eating and touring Seoul with them.
Elisa and I in front of some Korean Palace walls.
Jay with friends Eric and Mandy who joined us for our Thanksgiving meal.
Elisa kisses the cook.
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Of course we had to take them to the Norianjin Fish Martket. Elisa shows off our delicious crab. Mashisosoyo!!!
The aftermath.
Here we look out over the DMZ into North Korea. And at my ever stretching belly.

Another delicious seafood meal at the clam and shell grill. When the shells open dinner is ready.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Last weekend Jay and I went to Kyoto and had a great time exploring ancient temples, beautiful gardens, and eating lots of mochi.
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Katsura Imperial Villa is one of Japan's most famous gardens and was constructed in the 17th century by Prince Toshito. The gardens are truly amazing and painstakingly designed to include all the different garden styles from that period.
This is the view from one of the tea houses on a hill that is shown in the following photo.
We were very lucky to have such beautiful weather on our tour that morning. In the afternoon it started to rain.
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One evening we went to a show depicting 5 different kinds of Japanese performances in 1 hour. I guess most tourists are on a pretty tight time schedule. Not shown here is Ikebana, the art of flower arranging, which in our opinion really should not be shown as a performing art but I guess they had to fill the hour.... These women are playing the Koto.
This guy is preforming Gagaku, which is a strange/special dance done very slowly to kind of annoying high pitched 'court music.' We liked his costume but were happy it only lasted for about 7 minutes.
These guys were in a performance called Kyogen which is a traditional comic play. They are tied up because their master thinks they will steal his Sake while he goes to town. And of course they do steal his sake even though they are tied up they get totally drunk before their master comes back. This one was Jay's favorite, the acting was pretty good.
This performance was the most interesting and is called Bunraku. Three men all in black control the movements of this large puppet. Apparently they train for years to get the movements just right. It was pretty cool to watch.
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Kyomizu Temple was originally built in 789. Mizu is the word for water in Japanese and the temple was given this name because of the spring that is on the temple grounds. Many people come here to drink the water which is supposed to posses Divine power and ward off illness.
We passed some Mai-ko or Japanese performers as we were leaving the temples and snapped a few photos of them. We later saw an add for a place where you can dress up like a Mai-ko or Geisha and have someone photograph you at a temple or outside somewhere. Apparently the after effects of the popularity of "Memoir's of a a Geisha" are still being felt. We saw many more women dressed up in these costumes than I ever saw as a student in Kyoto 8 years ago.

Traditional Kyoto style cuisine.
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There are many different kinds of moss at the temples, these are from Ginkakuji and apparently are the VIPs of moss, or like the VIPs of moss.
Jay stops to think on the Philosophers walk.
Ryoanjin rock garden is considered one of the best examples of a Japanese rock garden. The garden consists of a 300 meter area of sand and pebbles with 15 rocks very carefully arranged to represent islands in an ocean. Its high degree of abstractness embodies the the ultimate in the Kare-sansui style of rock gardens. People come and stare at this garden for hours, we didn't last quite that long as we had lots of things to do and see and eat in Kyoto.
Here I ordered our Ramen on a machine before entering the restaurant. It was delicious.
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Ginkakuji temple was one of our favorite places in Kyoto. The morning we went there it had just rained and everything was lush and fresh. This rock garden is supposed to represent a lake and the mound on the right was made to reflect the moonlight and make the garden more beautiful at night.

The Ginkakuji temple was built in 1489 and was meant to give the people hope after a civil war had turned Kyoto into a wasteland.
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Here is Colleen at the cute little ryokan that we stayed in. They brought us a Japanese breakfast every morning at that little table there. Seaweed and other delicious breakfast foodstuff like that.
Here's the other side of the ryokan. And the robe they furnished for our midnight trips to the shared toilet or bath in the AM.
This is Kinkaku-ji Temple, built in 1397. Kyoto is the ancient Japanese capital and escaped firebombing in WWII due to its historical status. Incidentally, I just learned that Pyongyang also initally escaped destruction in the Korean War but as the war dragged on, and on, well... I've heard it's all new, or relatively new, stale Communist architecture. In Kyoto's case, its preservation was a very nice thing because there are so many beautiful old temples and palaces and gardens. One of my favorite places to visit ever.
And Colleen at 21 weeks in front of a bunch of baby Buddhas or something. That's her omnipresent Dr. Pepper chapstick in her pocket.
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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Jay and I at the top of Ulsan-Bawi. The hike was pretty steep with a lot of stairs and a lot of Koreans. We are always impressed by Koreans love of hiking and the outdoors, but it is still a little odd to have to wait on a hiking trail because there are so many people bottled up in front of you. In the US we go hiking to commune with nature, and in Korea it is much more of a group activity and usually not just a family group most often Koreans hike in packs of about 15-20 fellow Koreans all in complete hiking gear.
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Squid, squid and more drying squid. Eating squid is practically a national pastime in Korea. This last weekend on our trip to the coast we saw more squid in different phases of drying that I have ever seen in my life. These ones look about ready to eat.
These ones on the other hand are fresh out of the sea. Jay attempts to take a bite of his dried squid snack, which takes a bit of gnawing.
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Remembered today that I had wanted to blog this photo of the East Coast Crew in front of the Sorak National Park entrance. This is everybody who went on the fishing-hiking-naked public bathing trip. Forgot to mention that last part. Public bathing is a big thing in Korea, similar to Japan. Mr. Chon, the oldest Korean on the trip, paid for everyone to enjoy a public bath and thus we went. He's in the front left in the photo.

The bath was separated into men and women sides and, at least on the men's side, it was all ages enjoying some naked R&R as well as a good scrubbing. There were two big hot tubs, one hot and one hotter, a cold tub, and a hot sauna. My medic PFC Charlton welcomed me into the naked hot sauna with a nice bucket of cold water to the chest and face. I got him back when he wasn't looking. Then my Korean ambulance drivers started the naked splash fight in the cold water pool with DJ, the 9 year-old, who responded in full pre-teen fury. They all got yelled at by the bath employees. Apparently naked is not an excuse for rowdy in Korea.

Sorry, no naked bathing photos.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

This weekend we went to the east coast of Korea for a little trip with some of the emergency department staff. Mr. Yim was the hero of the trip and got us a nice big tourist bus for us to ride in style and comfort. This rock formation is called Ulsanbawi and is pretty famous in Korea. We climbed the opposite side of it the next day.
We went fishing the first day. Bridget Regner demonstrates her technique with the hand reel. She caught a couple of flounders with it.
We went out about a mile on three of these little boats we rented at a local harbor. DJ is fishing with his handline off the side of this one.
We caught maybe 12 little flounders on our boat, and I mean little. The biggest was maybe 6 inches and the smallest about 3. The captain cut the heads off and sliced them up, bones and all, and we scarfed them down raw. And crunchy.
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