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Last weekend, my dad and I went into Seoul. I had planned to get almost everything done on Saturday and when we could have Sunday to finish anything we missed and then just go around Seoul casually. We managed to get a lot done, especially on Saturday. Breakfast at Butterfingers, the Coex Aquarium, Itaewon and Tartine (Mmmm), Jongno and Insadong, Gyeongbok Palace and a trip to Namsan Tower’s observatory.

Since I’ve now been to two of the Palaces, I have to say, Gyeongbok was more impressive. BUT Changdeok  Palace’s garden are definitely worth a trip. It’s just that Gyeongbok’s grounds are pretty massive. And when you’re walking around inside you can’t here the surrounding area at all (which is true about Changdeok as well). That’s something I’ve noticed about the different palaces and temples around Seoul. When you’re on their grounds, it’s very peaceful. You can’t hear the surrounding area. I don’t know if that’s just because the grounds are large and walled in or if that was intentionally designed, but it’s funny to only hear birds and footstep and then you look up to see skyscrapers not car off.

Moving on, this past Thursday was Thanksgiving. Because that didn’t change our schedules at all, I had completely forgotten about until I remembered that the Yeongtong and Dongtan Faculty Managers were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. They bought a bunch of American amenities, like mac ‘n cheese and turkey, on a base. And someone brought banana pudding pies. Mmmmm.

Marty had a good Thanksgiving too. I brought him along since the FMs have dogs. Another co-worker from Dongtan brought his dog as well. So Marty got lots of attention from people and he got to socialize with other dogs.

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I would say that I’m eleven months into owning a rabbit, but sadly Sherlock is no longer with me. At the time, I didn’t want to blog about it and I still don’t really want to dwell on it because I do miss her. I can’t help but feel like I made some kind of mistake in taking care of her.

With the weather getting colder and winter almost here, I’m spending a lot more time at home and I was thinking what a shame it is that I don’t have Sherlock anymore. But I didn’t want to get another rabbit and had given away my rabbit cage. Then, one night not too long ago, I couldn’t sleep. On a whim, I went onto the the Animal Rescue Korea page, which is the group that helped find a new home for Watson, the rabbit one of my students gave me (She was adopted a few months ago by someone who has lots of experience with rabbits. Yay for Watston!). Several of my co-workers and foreigners in my neighborhood have adopted dogs through ARK and KARMA (Korea Animal Rescue and Management Association). And I was thinking, well, maybe I could foster a dog.

I had been thinking about fostering a dog when I first got here but decided against it, because of all the time I’d probably have to spend training a shelter dog. That night, I was still a little unsure about fostering but leaning towards it. I wanted to, but didn’t know if I’d be able to give the dog the time it would need. Then I found Marty.

Marty the Smarty. Originally a resident of a Busan animal shelter, he had been brought to the Asan animal shelter (biggest in Korea) for some reason. He’s a Yorkshire terrier and based on his pictures, video and what they were saying about his personality (smart, loveable, friendly… kind of what they always say…) I was surprised he hadn’t been adopted or even fostered. Until I saw that he was blind in one eye. The Busan shelter hadn’t told the Asan shelter anything about Marty other than he was blind in his eye (and you can tell just by looking at his milky len that he is). My heart went out to the little guy and I contacted the shelter about possibly fostering him.

This Saturday, I went to volunteer at the shelter and meet Marty.  He was super friendly and started licking me the moment they put him in my arms. Which was unfortunate because he smelled horrible and had a bad case of poop-butt. Aside from that, he seemed to be in decent shape for a shelter dog. He was a good weight. I couldn’t feel his bones.

Turned out, the guy’s a little Napoleon, minus the aggression. In addition to having a messed up eye, Marty was being kept in an area with aggressive dogs that were not too nice to him. There was some blood in his coat and I could feel small cuts on him. Because of that, Marty had pretty much no fear while I was walking him. He went straight up to a husky, Ice (whose bones not only could I feel but see, poor guy) and sniffed him assertively until Ice backed off. When two pit bulls got into a scuffle, ending up in a poor little Chihuahua getting nipped (she was okay, though) Marty practically walked right into the fight, tongue out and tail wagging.

After meeting him, I was sure I wanted to foster him and was planning to bring him home at the end of November but…once I get an idea in my head I like to act on it (Plus, it took  FOR-EVER to get to the shelter from Suwon). So I asked the shelter if I could borrow a carrier and brought Marty home with me. My apartment was already pet-proof (thanks to Sherlock) and the shelter actually set me up with leashes, collars, flea medicine, cleaning supplies and a days worth of food for him (thanks to donations) so I had the basics to get him through the day until I could go shopping for him.

First thing on the agenda – BATH TIME. Which petrified the poor little guy. He kept trying to sit in my lap for protection while I was dumping water on him. And I’m going to have to take him to a professional to give him a really deep cleanand a good trim. Luckily, I managed to rid him of most of his poop-butt.

In the apartment, Marty doesn’t have as much of his Napoleon vigor and he clearly prefers the outside. He LOVES walks. Unfortunately, his eye does give him trouble. He’s run into things and I have to carry him up the stairs to my apartment (at least for now). But I seriously lucked out for the most part because he’s 100% house trained. I was very impressed. I was planning on watching him try and pee on my floor and then rushing him to the bathroom the first night to teach him to pee there. To my great surprise, after drinking a ton of water, he walks over to my bathroom and does his business without being prompted. So I let him have free reign of the apartment at night. Not a single accident. And he used the bathroom again the next morning. Not only that, but he doesn’t freak out when I leave, like I was worried he might. When I left him alone to go shopping for him, he only protested a little and was a perfect gentleman when I got back, waiting patiently for several minutes for me to open the bathroom door. It’s such a shame. Someone clearly took the time to train him properly (he walks great on the leash too and doesn’t jump up on my bed), but I guess without his eye he just wasn’t cute any more.

The only thing Marty needs to work on his obedience training. He doesn’t know any commands. Today I worked on ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ with him. He’s getting sit pretty quicky. Stay, not so much. He doesn’t like to leave my side and insisted on sleeping next to me at night. He also needs to be taught how to play. I tried playing the games that my dog back home likes but Marty didn’t understand a single one of them. It took him several tries to get that the jingly ball I got him was a toy that he was supposed to pick up and several more tries to get that when I throw it, he should chase it. But sure enough, as of an hour ago he was actually asking me to throw the ball for him. He’s a quick learner. Marty the Smarty, indeed.

So technically I am fostering him, but honestly… I’m a little hesitant to find him an owner. He’s such a good dog I want to keep him around. Maybe I’ll adopt him… We’ll see. I want to wait until I hear back about grad school to make a decision like that.

 

Someone needs a haircut. But gotta love the tongue

 

 

After doing his business, Marty likes to kick his back legs in this little dance thing. It's pretty cute. Although don't get behind him when he does it.

 

 

On October 8th, I started this blog entry and for whatever reason haven’t gotten around to finishing it until today. Clearly I need to be more timely with my blog posts. I always sit down with the best intentions of pumping out an entry but then don’t actually finish it until waaaaaay later than I should. In all fairness, I have (or had for the first few days) a small excuse for posting late since I was sick around October 8th. Nothing serious but definitely blog-hampering.

Anyway, from September 24th (the day after Chuseok) to October 3, Andong, South Korea was celebrating its cultural heritage via the Mask Dance Festival. I learned about this festival before I came over here (see my December 9th entry) and of course had to go see it. Originally I planned to go on September 25th and 26th, but couldn’t because on the 25th I had to make up classes  that had been cancelled due to Chuseok. So October 2nd and 3rd were the last days I could go see it – visiting on a weekday were out of the question.

Originally I also planned to go with a reasonably sized group and stay at one of the traditional Korean style inns that are in the area, but the group didn’t pan out. Which meant that I’d be jjimjilbang-ing it. Or at least at 6am, when I went out to catch the bus to take me into Seoul to catch another bus to take me all the way to Andong, that’s what I had been planning but I ended up being so exhausted by the end of the day that I just caught the midnight bus back to Seoul and called it a weekend. Which is kind of cool when you think about how I basically made a day trip going to almost the other side of the country.

Anyway, spending the day in Andong was fun. The vibe was very different than Seoul, obviously. I ended up seeing a couple of mask performances (and one day when I figure out how to post my videos on this blog, I will put them up here) and visiting the Folk Village. At the Folk Village, there were several shops selling tourist souvenirs, including tha traditional Hahoe masks. Now, you can find the Hahoe masks all over Korea but I really wanted to get a handmade one. Maybe they’re all handmade, maybe they’re mass produced, it’s hard to tell when they’re hanging in a store, even at the Folk Village. But then, just as it was starting to rain and I was leaving the Folk Village, I noticed a little shop where two women were working with woodworking equipment and selling the masks they were making. Yay! So I bought one of the masks at at pretty good price – hand-made (although I didn’t see her making my particular mask, unfortunately) and cheaper than I’ve seen elsewhere. And it has its own unique design, within the cultural norm for its character, and imperfections.

The mask I bought was the  양반 탈 (yangban t’al) or Aristocrat mask, which is not only my favorite of the 9 archtype masks but it seems everyone else’s as well. The Aristocrat mask is the one you see on all the advertisements and the one that is most on sale. Each of the masks represents a different character, with their own personality and dancing style, and it seems the Aristocrat’s is the best – or at least only one that’s not clearly negative.

I got this from the Hahoe Mask Museum:

Yangban T’al is viewed as the masterpiece best representing the aesthetic value among Hahoe masks. Its expression is generally gentle, mixed with bombastic and leisurely expressions, just as goes the saying; “Yangban picks his teeth, even when he drinks water”. The separarte chin with a hanging string makes firm the mouth when drooping the head, and thus changes himself into an angry face. Dancing form: Yangban‘s swaggering steps.”

If a mask of gold hides all deformities, what does a mask of wood hide?

And for your enjoyment, here are some more photos:

A modern take on the Aristocrat

A modern take on the flirtatious woman.

Just in time for Halloween

Not a mask, but still picture-worthy

(I’m almost caught up on the events I wanted to blog about for the past few months. Woo-hoo!)

The second weekend of August, Quinn’s parents visited Korea, so on August 7, I helped him show them around the  Jogno area of Seoul. Which meant a visit to Changdeok Palace and the Forbidden Garden (the King’s garden that no one, not even the highest officials and certainly not some foreign English teacher, was allowed to walk in).

Enjoy the pictures:

We ended up having to pay for and take a Korean tour in order to see the garden, but it was worth it. A peaceful two-hour walk through woodsy gardens was a nice break after a month of hectic classes.

With intensives over, it’s time for this blog to get back up to speed.

August 5 was Derrika’s birthday (which meant a delicious chocolate cake from Paris Baguette at work – side note: Paris Baguette = DELICIOUS). Because Thursdays during Summer 2010 meant full loads of classes for most teachers, she couldn’t really do anything to celebrate. But on Saturday, a bunch of us celebrated in style on a nice boat ride down the Han River in Seoul.

*cue SNL’s I’m on a boat*

It was a nice leisurely party, only minorly hindered by the fact that the Han is really dirty. We saw several dead animals in the water (note, I said animals, NOT fish).

And as the sunset, it was a great opportunity for picture taking:

An attempt at creative picture taking

Last Saturday (May 8th), was my second big Adventure Korea trip.  Once again, I woke up at the crack of dawn and caught the bus to Gangnam, and caught another bus to Chungcheongbuk-do, the province right next to Gyeonggi-do (where I live).

The first stop on the trip was the Chungju Dam (Check out that hyerlink; how awesome is it that there’s a website for the Korea National Committee on Large Dams? Or that there is such a committee?), the largest concrete dam in Korea and one of the largest in Asia. And yet somehow, I’m pretty sure I did not actually see it. We took a ferry to our next destination and unfortunately I was so beat from waking up early and not being able to nap on the bus that somehow the giant concrete dam in the middle of the ridiculously green forest eluded me. But I napped on the boat, along with most of the training gang that I was traveling with, which gave me enough energy to continue with our journey.

The second stop on the trip was Gosu cave (고수동굴 – gosudonggul; from the signs, I figured out donggul must mean ‘cave’) in Danyang, Korea’s National Monument # 256. Now, I’ve caved before but this has got to be one of the smallest caves and spaces I’ve ever been in. I’m a tiny person and sometimes even I was brushing up against the rock. This cave had passages that were tiny by Korean standards. But it was a nice hike (one that almost killed Derrika with all its stairs) and a cool thing to add to my list of random things I’ve done in Korea.

After the cave, we traveled to Dodam Sambong (도담삼봉 – three peak island) which is this formation of three rocks in the water with a pavilion called Ihogangjeong. I’m not sure if that’s the name of that particular pavilion or that’s just the word for all the pavilions but… I’m going to pretend that pavilion is special enough to have its own name. This is suppose to be an important site that scholars visited during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) so I wouldn’t be too surprised. The pavilion was built to comfort families that had lost people in floods caused by Chungju Dam. Following this, we hiked up a mini-mountain to see Seokmun (석문 – stone gate) which is basically a neat little land bridge. Which we were not allowed to climb. Because someone would most definitely fall off and die after falling the hundred or so feet into the rocky water below.

And with that happy thought, I leave you with some beautiful pictures.

Beautiful greenery and some pretty cool cliffs.

Flowers, mountains and water. What more could you ask for in a scenery picture?

This formation kind of looks like a bat to me.

Your standard, kinda freaky drippy cave rocks.

It's pretty hard to read the sign, but basically this is a Fairy Bathing Area

Tranquil, yes?

It's a land bridge.

This past weekend was my first Adventure Korea trip: a weekend of mountain hiking and butterfly watching – highly appropriate for the weekend after Earth Day. On Saturday, I woke up at the wee hours of 6:30am to catch the bus to Gangnam, to then catch the tour bus to Mt. Gangcheon. It was a four-ish hour ride down and I napped most of the way.

On a side note, Korea has some interesting rest stops. One that we stopped at had a generously sized garden in the women’s room, while another one had trailers that had been made into bathrooms. As in the kind of trailers that can be driven away. O_O

We hiked Mt. Gangcheon for about four hours and most of the time I was actually doing really well. There’s was a thirty to forty minute period where we were basically going straight up the mountain via stairs and rock that was pretty much kicking everyone’s butts but after that the adrenaline, endorphins and whatnot kicked in and we start booking. The view from the top was fantastic. Enjoy some photos:

My favorite picture of the trip!

Temples: Always a great photo opportunity.

On another side note, there were a lot of Koreans hiking too and most of them were older and clearly in better shape than all us huffing and puffing foreigners. We were told later that this particular hike would be considered easy to Koreans… Again:  O_O.

The climb down was much, much easier, partially because the path was better. Why couldn’t we have climbed up that way?! Halfway down, we ran into a building where a family practices an “ancient, Korean form of martial arts” (I was not told the name… the granddaddy of Taekwondo?) and they preformed for us. Very cool.

We ended the hike at a hot springs and stay there for about an hour before moving on to a galbi restaurant. It was good, but all the galbi I’ve had in Suwon is far superior. As it should be, since Suwon is known for its galbi.

Speaking of Suwon, there were about eight other people from Suwon on this trip. Most of them teach at other hakwons, however one of them is an April teacher in Dongtan.

On Sunday, we headed out to Hampyeong for the Butterfly Festival (함평나비대축제). Oh the things we did there. We toured a greenhouse where we released butterflies (while being filmed by a group trying to promote tourism in Korea). We caught rabbits and chickens. I caught a chicken (as a rabbit owner, I didn’t need to go chasing after a rabbit on my vacation) and for it won a bag of special Hampyeong butterfly rice. I do not know how different it is from real rice but eventually I’ll pop it into my rice cooker and find out. Originally we were supposed to catch baby wild boar but hoof and mouth disease is going around, so… we did not catch any hoofed animals.

After that, we ate some barley and peas that had been roasted on a fire in a hole in the ground. Very tasty. And as if that weren’t enough – we got to catch mudfish! Most people would not put an exclimation point at the end of that sentence, but I had a lot of fun. We wadded into a small pond and sifted through nice and thick much to find the eely little fishies while little kids (and those videographers that had been filming us) followed us around.

As it turns out, I’m a pretty good mudfisher. Everyone else was having a hard time finding and catching them and the people running the mudfish pond were having to throw more in to increase their chancing of catch them… But the big problem was they were shouting, carrying on and flailing about – you know, letting the mudfish know where they were. I however entered a zen-like trance and was able to catch two or three of them before anyone else caught one. At one point, I had one mudfish in my hand and I could feel one under my foot so I told one of the other girls on the trip about it. She caught that one and I felt ANOTHER mudfish under my foot. So with my free hand, I reached down and pulled that one out too with no struggle. You read that right: No. Struggle. I am the mudfishing master. Right after that, the camera people asked to interview me about my mudfishing experience. Its suppose to air with the other footage they tood on Friday at 7am, 10am and 7pm. But I don’t know on what channel…

Following the mudfishing, we broke off and explored the festival for another two hours before heading home. I went with another adventurer to hike up a hill where they had golden bats, but sadly we went up the wrong hill and by the time we realized the mistake it was time to go. But again, the view was beautiful.

Enjoy some butterfly festival pictures:

Aren't they adorable?

Oh, the glorious colors!

Speaking of colors…

There were, however, no butterflies at these flowers.

It's friendly. I promise.

Next weekend, I have a Chungdahm company picnic to look forward to and the following weekend, I’ll be on Adventure Korea’s Caving and Ferrying trip on Saturday along with some of the training gang. April is a busy month for me.

First of all, on Friday a bunch of the CDI and April teachers from Yeongtong and Dongtan got together to play Cranium and I’m glad I brought my camera because I came away with several hilarious videos of groups trying to guess words from very odd clues. Ahh, Cranium. But at the shingding, I met another teacher who reads (and commented previously) on my blog (Hi, Marilyn!), which was cool. And I just wanted to touch on the fact that I’ve been getting pretty steady numbers in the people who visit this blog (Thanks to WordPress’s dummy proof dashboard) and thank everyone for reading!

On to the Butterfingers: Last weekend, I had wanted to go to Butterfingers Pancakes, a delicious American-style brunch-stravaganza in Gangnam but I couldn’t, what with being sick and all. This Saturday, Quinn, Derrika and I ended up having an unintentional Easter brunch at Butterfingers with three of our training buddies, Karen, Richard and Latoya, and two other fellow teachers. Planning for the trip (and trying to figure out how to get there after past excersion into Gangnam… I’m talking about you March 6th!), I found this blog, which has some pretty great pictures of Butterfingers’ food.

I ended up splitting a ‘little bit of everything’ plate with Quinn, with him focusing on the pancakes and me devouring the French toast that I had been wanting for two weeks. DELICIOUS! Karen got an Eggs Benedict dish that looked fantastic and Derrika had an Egg McMuffin-style sandwich and it also looked fantastic. Sadly, I have to pictures of this… The pictures I do have are of the strawberry smoothie I got, which just happened to be the MOST DELICIOUS-SCRUMDIDILIUMPTIOUS strawberry smoothie I’ve EVER HAD and of teacher’s posing cool walls around our table.

Following this, most of us went to a boardgame cafe at Gangnam. This idea is genius and they need to have more. We basically paid $4 to sick in their cafe and play games. We were going to play a couple of games but ended up getting stuck on this endless game of Uno. It was epic. We had a 5-card pile up of +2 cards that finally stopped on Quinn, so he had to pick up 10 cards. And after getting Uno about three times and just as the hour we paid for was running up… I won! Woooooo-hoooooo. It was epic.

Then Quinn, Latoya, Derrika and I wandered over to the Coex aquarium, which is effectively a zoo-quarium because has way more than just fish. This aquarium was seriously awesome. AWESOME. It was actually Latoya’s first time going to an aquarium and I’m sure this one has probably spoiled her. Allow me to explain way, through pictures. The theme of these pictures: Things as Fishtanks!

Note the lantern at the right...

IT'S A FISH TANK!

It's another fish tank!

Now, you'd think this is just another fish tank with a fancy shape, but you'd be wrong. This actually plays notes as the fish swim by sensors where the string are. O_O!

Quick, call Superman! There's a woman drowning a phone booth!

I enjoy grading my Albatross Plus Listening class’s review tests for two reasons.

Reason One! They’re good students so for the most part, they get A’s and I don’t have to correct too much or sigh because they’ve made a really obvious mistake.

Reason Two! They tend to finish early and spend the rest of their time doodling on their tests. Doodles that make me smile. Here are some of their doodles:

Julia’s Pictures

The First Apperance of the Cute Face (3/11/10)

Return of the Cute Face (3/25/10)

April’s Picture

I love the explanation (3/25/10)

Harry’s Picture

Some good ol' pirate pics (3/11/10)

Unfortunately… I can’t remember who drew these pictures…

That's Korean food for you

I know how you feel Average Height Guy. I know how you feel. Also... what's up with the yellow slipper?

I’ve saved the best for last (sorry other students). David draws Monkey D. Luffy on every single review test, and he usually draws Roronoa Zoro too. I love it.

David’s Pictures

The first apperance (3/11/10)

A third appearance (I don't have a picture of the second...)

And today for their Critical Thinking Protect they had to draw propaganda posters to make certain taboos socially acceptable… AND I FORGOT MY CAMERA! How could I do that?! I should have known they would draw awesome pictures. And they did, but I cannot post them…

Today, Quinn, Alex, Derrika and I met a bunch of the training gang in Dongdaemun for some discount shopping and later dinner in Itaewon. It was a weird, rainy day, so a pretty good day to be indoors shopping. I mainly wanted to get a new jacket so I don’t wear out the hoodie that I’ve been wearing. It’s served me surprisingly well in the cold winter months, but I want to give it a break.

Thanks partially to Derrika’s insistance that I need to indulge myself, I also got a few other things (although Quinn was NOT the barging help that I thought it would be or that he claimed to be! Fail, Quinn!). Anyway, for the most part I got pretty good deals on everything. My replacement hoodie was a really reasonable price.

Although a little morbid, we are all in agreement that Skull Hoodie was also cute, and in line with Korean style.

As an added bonus, there is a mouth in it's pocket! Time to find a red tie for a tongue...

One of the items that Quinn did NOT help with negotiating on... For some reason, Quinn and Alex were set on me buying this. But it will have to wait for Summer to be worn.

I got the jacket for a pretty good price, and some cheap shirts for mixing and matching.

After shopping, we all ended up going to Itaewon for dinner. I wish I were hungry since I ended up eating at this delicious Mexican place. Sadly, there’s nowhere to get Mexican food in Yeongtong… Following dinner, we had some hot chocolate and tea in Starbucks (neatly avoiding the loud American revelers out celebrating St. Patrick’s Day) and I decided to head home since it was getting late.

And its a good thing I did head home at that time, if not for me that for the guy I was sitting next to on the subway! Before I get into that story, let me just say my hunch was right. There ARE two subways that run on Line 1, one that goes to Incheon and another that follows a minute or two behind and goes to Sinchang or Cheonan.

Now back to the man, who was lucky I was on the subway! On the train to Cheonan, I happened to sit by this guy who was listening to an ipod or something. I too was listening to my ipod. BUT! Fortunately for the man, I had to pause my music occasionally to hear what stop was coming up because the electronic sign that normal tells the stops wasn’t working in my particular car.

Right around Guro (where Line 1 branches of to Incheon and Sinchang) I paused it so I could double-check I was absolutely on the right train (burn me once, shame on you, Seoul subway…). When I did, I heard a slight thunk and looked down to see the man’s cellphone had fallen out of his pocket. I figured he’d probably notice it, since he did sit on it. And since he was sitting on it. But he didn’t notice it and when he got up to leave about two stops from Suwon I saw he didn’t take his cellphone.

Now, I won’t say I’m necessarily prone to loosing things, but I have on occasion thought that something was securely stowed on my person only to find later that I am no longer securely carrying that thing.  So I wasn’t about to let this guy walk off with his cellphone. When I gave it back to him, he was very grateful and there was much bowing until he finally got off.

So ended my day. And with this blog, I start my Sunday.

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