Friday, March 28, 2008

Springtime in Ulsan

I've been too busy enjoying the beautiful spring weather here on the Korean penninsula to post much lately. I thought you might like to see why. Here's some of the gorgeous trees that are all around the area where Jason and I live.

The first flowers below are cherry blossoms - which I was expecting to see. The others are more of a surprise though. The second flowers I posted below are azaleas. Their blooms are turning entire mountainsides purple. Jason picked a handful of them and they're decorating our apartment right now.

The last photos are of magnolia trees. When I was young there was a magnolia tree that was in the front yard of a house we rented in California. I loved that one beautiful tree. Here they are planted all around the apartment buildings that I walk by on my way to work. The flowers only last a few weeks but they're my favorite tree flowers by far.

Cherry Blossoms



Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gampo to Bangojin

Jason and I had heard that we live less than 10 miles from the ocean as the crow flies (according to Lara speak) and last weekend we found out that it was true. We'd tried to go once a few weeks ago by bus but the damn thing never showed up. Instead we sat at the bus stop for an hour wondering why the bus skipped us - we still don't know. Some random Korean characters (random by my untrained eye) showed up on the video monitor at the bus stop and the few other would-be passengers walked away in various directions. Presumably to kill time waiting for the next bus or to find another route. We went back to our apartment too frustrated to try to piece together the mystery.

Last Saturday, Jared picked us up in his cute little compact car, and off we went. Our seaside visit was relatively similar to what it's like visiting the ocean in the northern states of the U.S. People were feeding the seagulls, children were snacking on food from vendors, and locals hawked their wares. Of course the seagulls were fed puffed rice treats, the children snacked on dried squid, and the locals sold seaweed. But you know...potato - patato.

Here's an interesting piece of Korean history. One of the Silla rulers was supposedly entombed off the coast in a rocky outcropping.

The tomb is said to be in the center of those rocks in a small pond.

Hmmmm....dried squid.

As this cute little girl was enjoying her piece of dried squid tentacle, I tried to imagine my niece Abbey doing the same. Maybe I'll bring her back some of the stuff to see if she likes it.

The round flat stuff in the picture below are slices of dried parrot fish. Vendors heat it up on a bed of hot rocks which soften it some and then cut it into pieces. It's a bit chewy but not bad.

The local fisherman picking fish out of their nets.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gayasan National Park

For some reason I still think that I should be in the same shape I was in while I was in college. I was used to going hiking a few times a week, dancing for hours at a time, and doing yoga regularly. I seem to think that the four years I spent sitting on my butt and drinking beer in Minneapolis had no effect on me whatsoever. So, when I was invited to go hiking with some friends over the weekend I didn't hesitate, even though the hike was considered quite strenous - after all it was only 4 km (2 and a half miles for you Yankees).

After this weekend there is one rule that I'll try not to forget for the rest of my sojourn here in Korea; that is the absence of switchbacks in this country. Nope - not a single one in the whole 4 km hike. The trail sloped up gently for a kilometer as it entered the canyon and then all at once it tilted up 60 - 80 degrees (Jason disputes my geometry) and stayed that way for the rest of the hike. The trail ran through deep mud, rock fields, and snow without any thought for the hikers on its back.

The humbling part of the experience for all of us Westerners was that there were groups of 70 year old Koreans happily climbing up and down the trail. And not just one or two groups - but many, many groups of people over 50 years old. Yep! I'm out of shape.

When we got down from the mountain everyone's legs were quivering from exhaustion. My feet were sweaty and uncomfortable in my boots so I had the brilliant idea to wash them in the sink. The first foot was a success - it was the second one that finished me off. My damp foot on the tile floor wasn't able to hold me up while my legs were still weak. I went down hard. On the way down I hit my head on a water spicket attached to the wall. In less than a minute a goose egg had formed on the back of my head. So then I was limping from the pain in my knees, the quivering in my legs, the deep bruise sure to bloom on my left butt cheek, and the incessent throbbing in my head.

When I left the Park I didn't feel like a 30 year old should after an exhilarating hike - I felt like a 30 year old that was beaten with a baseball bat and barely let go with her life intact.

I'm going to start a new workout regimen this week - I promise.

All in all though it was a wonderful weekend. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was great, and for the most part the company was enjoyable.

It looked easy on the map...

but I should have listened to the bears.
Josh and I laughing and talking without any indication of what lie ahead.

it's starting to get a bit harder....

Ahhh, the mud.

In my opinoin stairs are never a good idea on a hiking trail. They make it much harder than it needs to be...unless the alternative is mud.

A much needed group break.

Up, up, up!

The top! I see it!

Nope - it wasn't the top. Just a nice resting spot (or stopping point for me).

Nice view

See - here I am...

...and Jason too.

Jackie looks thrilled as she decides to try to make it to the top.
Now that's the top - I think.
Happily skipping down the trail.

What a cute couple. :)

Now that's unsettling...
...a double yoked hard boiled egg.