Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My 30th Birthday Weekend

We had quite a busy weekend. On Friday we had a house warming party for our director and co-workers. When we first started teaching at the school it was hinted at that we should have a house warming party. Actually, Mr. Kim said, "You will have a house warming party soon I think". So we put it off for a few weeks until we settled into our place a bit.

Some Canadians we met moved out of their apartment last Wednesday which is a few doors down from ours. We raided their place for hand-me-down furniture and random wall hangings. (We now have a Brazilian flag hanging in our living room). Since our apartment was clean and we had places for people to sit, we invited everyone over. This apparently didn't matter since they pushed the furniture back and sat on the floor in a circle. :)

We served deviled eggs, barbecued meatballs, chips and queso, potato chips, and steamed and fried dumplings. I was greatly amused by watching people try to pick up the deviled eggs with chopsticks. To quote Pretty Woman, "they're slippery little suckers".

Our friend Jared came to the party as well. I was grateful for this when he was able to help us avoid a few faux pas throughout the evening. One such instance came when the director ordered food from a take-out place. He came up to Jason and told him that he had ordered food. This seemed okay with us, but when the food came Jared jumped up and paid for the delivery. We didn't have enough cash for the food because we weren't expecting to have to supply any more food or drink than we already had. Apparently if it's your party you're expected to pay for everything - even if you don't order it. :) Also good to know is that if you invite people out for your birthday you're expected to pay for everyone. I guess we'll be celebrating our birthdays alone from now on. :)

On Saturday, Nathan and Kat came down from Seoul for a visit. It was great hanging out with Nathan and meeting his girlfriend. They showed us around Ulsan (even though they'd never been here) and made sure we knew where the E-Mart and Lotte Mart were in town. We didn't do much other than that except for eating and drinking. I just had a great time catching up and getting to know Kat a bit. (I promise we'll do more next time).

Notice the Starbuck's cups above. See Theresa ... you'll love it here.

On Sunday we put Nathan and Kat in a cab and went for a walk. There is a buddhist temple about a half an hour walk from our place. It was a beautiful day as we walked through the countryside, by a lake, and to the temple.

There was an adorable puppy at the temple who loved us at first sight - maybe a little too much. He wound himself around our legs vying for attention and we were hardly able to leave without tripping over him and falling down the steps. We finally shook the cute little thing about 15 minutes after we left the temple. Good thing too because I think Jason was considering trading him for the cat.

The temple was beautiful and peaceful. No one was around because Sunday isn't their worship day. We did hear some chanting but I think it was a recording. We'll have to read up on the etiquette a bit so next time we can go inside one and have a look. I'm curious to see what they'll be like on the inside.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Modern Korea

I wanted to post some photos so people would know that Korea is not a third world country, but is in fact a first world country. Many people I told about my upcoming move to Korea thought I was joining the Peace Corps or an international aid organization to teach English to poor villagers. I think many people conjured up images of post war Vietnam circa 1980 imagining rice paddies, bend farmers in triangle hats, and army jeeps carrying me into the jungle. I think this is what people imagined because when Nathan told me he was going to Korea it's what I thought of initially.

When I said that I was being paid for the teaching and that Korea was a modern country I'm not sure who really believed me. I continued to get comments about people here eating my cat, some wondered if they had computers here.

So, the following photos serve two purposes - one to show people what Korea looks like being here (and also to assure Jaime that the hospitals here are adequate and to assure Theresa that I'm able to get sweets) and two to emphasize that first world country thing from above.

Am I being defensive? Either way, enjoy!

I don't know how to comment on my photos so that they have titles. I'll have to have Nathan teach me some blogging tips when he visits this weekend. So, in order of apperance the photos are of Jason in a mirror, downtown Ulsan, Jared and I looking at wine, nightime Ulsan, the view from our apartment, our apartment, a bakery, and a hospital.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Journey to the Other Side of the Globe

It was easier than I had imagined. We flew from Billings, MT to Minneapolis, MN to Narita, Japan to Busan, South Korea. I was armed with Xanax for me, tranquilizers for Kitty, and a pillow for Jason. Kitty was the only one not able to indulge in her comfort. I was worried she wouldn't like being dosed without her knowledge. She is truly a traveling feline now. I think she might have meowed a total of twenty times on the entire trip. People commented on every plane that we exited that they were surprised they didn't notice the cat on board. I was so relieved because I had been worried that I would strangle her when she wouldn't shut up.

Also, to any novice travelers out there (like myself) you might be surprised to know that you don't fly over the Pacific ocean to get to Asia. Instead we flew up to Alaska, over Siberia, down to Japan, and then over the Sea of Japan. I assume that it has to do with the curvature of the earth. We were so shocked that we took a few dozen pictures out of the window of the plane. On a side note, Koreans don't acknowledge the name Sea of Japan. They call it the East Sea or the East Sea of Korea here. There's not a lot of love for the Japanese but that's probably typical since Japan occupied Korea for 35 years or so. They celebrate an Independence Day similar to the U.S. holiday. It's on the day that Korea won their Independence from Japan.

Sorry for the history lesson...the moral of the story is that we're here. We're living in Cheongok-Dong in Ulsan, South Korea. Our apartment is on the edge of Ulsan which has a million people in it. When people we've met here refer to our location as the boonies we have to scratch our heads. The boonies in the U.S. look much different than this.

Plane Photos over Alaska/Siberia