Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Greener Grass

My older sister Jaime thinks my life is more exciting than hers. I beg to differ. She's a school teacher in Cody. She deals with a new bunch of 3rd graders every year. She also has three kids, an adorable but pain in the butt husband, three dogs and a cat. I stayed with her while I was in Wyoming over the winter holidays this year and her life is anything but boring. I don't think I could last a week in her position. She is living at 150 mph.

My life in comparison is pretty boring. I work, I watch TV with my husband on the week nights, and we go sightseeing on the weekends. Sure, we're in Asia. But really, if we were in North Dakota we'd be doing the same things. Looking for places to hike, good restaurants to eat at, and friends to pass the time with.

I like my life, don't get me wrong. It suits me. But it's not The Amazing Race. I'm not skydiving or bungee jumping, thank God. The coolest thing in my life lately is my work. I'm getting to know my students and that has been so much fun. But really, living here isn't exciting in the traditional sense of the word. It's just different and challenging.

Take today as an example. I paid my electric bill. Woo hoo! Will the fun never end? But I have to admit, it made me smile and it was more fun than licking a stamp and going to a mailbox.

I had a bill to pay (written completely in Korean characters). Here's an example of some Korean writing, 한글은 표음문자 중 음소문자이다. (I have no idea what that says by the way.) So, I had to go looking for a bank. In Korea you don't mail your bills into the company. You have to find a specific bank that for some reason or another takes the money for these bills. I went into one bank and they helpfully pointed in the direction I needed to walk to find the appropriate one. I walked in that direction for awhile and asked a security guard at an apartment complex where I needed to go by holding out my bill and smiling. He was kind enough to walk me about two blocks to where the bank was. I then walked in...waited for my number to be called (similar to the DMV)...and walked up to the teller. Since my Korean is terrible, I simply held out the bill to the guy, smiled, and mumbled some intelligible (Konglish) words. Yes, I'm kind of like the idiot cousin here. I don't make sense to anyone...I just smile and hope for the best.

It worked out fine. Like most things do here. But seriously, is that exciting? Paying your electric bill...I don't think so. I just find the challenge of doing things to be fun. I guess that's why I like being here. It suits me.

When I talked to my sister this morning, she asked what I'd been up to lately. I said I'd had my feet nibbled on by fish. Which is true. They're crazy about Dr. Fish in Korea (fish that nibble on your feet and clean off the dead skin cells). But her husband is a fisherman. I'm sure she could have him put some fish in the bathtub and have them nibble at her feet if necessary. It'd be much more cost effective.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the grass is always greener or more Asian. My life right now suits me more than the cubicle did. That's just what works for me. I wish I had my sister's life sometimes. The comfort of family all around you, kids loving you, and animals that need to be fed. Kitty of course eats as much as three dogs but she doesn't like to go on walks.

I've decided to post some pics of a day trip Fritz and I took to Hwaseong Fortress Wall. It was a beautiful spring day. But really, this was the equivalent of an old homestead where Theodore Roosevelt stayed while he toured around North Dakota. It's old and well preserved, but cool...because it's in Asia.

The Hwaseong Fortress Wall is in Suwon - a short subway ride from our place in Gunpo.

The wall was built in built in the late 1700's by King Jeongjo to honour and house the remains of his father, who had been murdered by being locked alive inside a rice chest by his own father having failed to obey his command to commit suicide.

One of the observation towers along the wall.


I don't know if it's because of my sister talking about Twilight all the time...but these look like vampires to me.

The city of Suwon has grown outside the city walls. If you look closely you can see the wall as it winds through the scenic town.

The Magnolias are in bloom once again. Springtime in Korea is beautiful. A new flower blooms every few weeks.

There are a lot of structures along the wall. This is a view of one of the pavillions. There are also sentry posts, chimneys, gates, and turrets along the way.

The wall is a little under 6 km in length. If you're not up for the physical challenge of it you can take the traditional dragon mobile to different points of interest. Unfortunately, we missed out on this experience as it left before we could buy tickets. Next time!