Making my way through Asia (and grad school) one adventurous step at a time.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

A few months ago, we watched a building go up on the hillside by our house. It turned out to be a restaurant, and Paula, Kyung-rim and I went there to eat. Turns out the guy who owns it has been trekking in the Himalayas twice. Upon his return to Korea last time, he decided to build a restaurant. So he did. And he serves really tasty food (and tons of it for $4). He found out that Paula and I are teachers, and he told us that we can go there everyday after work, and he'll feed us well. Infact, he told us that the next time we go, we'll get our meal for free! Nice.

Friday, January 30, 2004

I've got to stop eating seaweed and Oreos before bed. Last night I dreamt that I was working as an undercover agent ... disguised as an Hassidic Jewish Rabbi. No word of a lie. I was just opening the locker that contained the secret documents I was searching for when my roomate coughed in the Livingroom and woke me up. drat.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

DMZ = Demilitarized Zone
JSA = Joint Security Area
DML = Demarcation Line

We're back safe and sound, after seeing the DMZ. We even went down into the 3rd Tunnel (The third infiltration tunnel that the North Koreans dug beneath the ends only 44km away from Seoul).

The DMZ consists of 2km on the South Korean side, and 2km on the North Korean side, with the DML running the width of the country right down the middle of the DMZ. After the North and South signed the ceasefire (they're technically still at war), both sides agreed to allow 2km on either side of the fence as a buffer. We stood atop an observation deck, and could see the North Korean troops in their guard posts.

We could also see the 'Propaganda Village' which the North Koreans constructed to show how prosperous they are....however, the place is absolutely deserted. Not a single person lives in that village. It's entirely for show.

We also weren't allowed off the bus in certain spots (mostly because the bus was moving) but also because there were still unswept minefields within spitting distance of the bus.

Liam and I did get a big laugh though, as we were waiting on the bus to show our passports at the security check, there was a gaggle of S.Korean soldiers ouside. One of them was demonstrating to his fellow soldiers how to execute a proper ballerina-style perrioutte. It was pretty funny. He was quite good, even with his army boots on!
I'd pay good money to see the JSA Ballet company perform!
Ugh. It's just after 6:00 am, and Liam and I will be leaving for the DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) in a few minutes. Normally, I'd be pretty excited, but I think I'm too sleepy right now. It's one of the most heavily guarded (?) borders in the world, and we're not allowed to wear jeans, shorts, sandals, military gear, and long hair is innapropriate for men. Not your typical tourist resort.

Liam, Gina and I arrived in Seoul yesterday afternoon - after a normal 2 hour bus ride instead of the 7 hours it took them to get to Daejeon on Tuesday. However, once we got back, they discovered that the water pipe to their respective apartments had frozen in their neither one of them have running water....which has it's disadvantages.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Well, Gina and Liam arrived a full 5.5 hours late. Traffic out of Seoul last night was unreal, and a bit of blowing snow didn't help either.

Once they arrived, and everyone was settled, we hung out until sometime past 3am....but we were all in bed by the time the monks started ringing their morning bell. (Iwas still awake, but in at least I was in bed.) After we finally got up, we had a spectacular day, and now the wee hours of morning have come again. Tomorrow we're hoping to climb one of the local mountains if the weather cooperates.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

AAaaaahhhhh. Lovely. My roomates have been gone for 4 days now. I've had the place to myself and have caught up on so many things that needed to be done. (I even got my Christmas letters written!) Now, I'm sitting here in a clean house, with clean laundry, a clean fridge and a hot cup of coffee listening to U2. Ahhhhh.

My friends Liam and Gina are coming down from Seoul tonight and we'll spend a few days here together, then I'll go back to Seoul with them for the weekend. Since everyone and their pets will be fleeing Seoul tonight in preparation for the Lunar New Year, I imagine that the usual 2 hour bus trip could possibly take upwards of 5 or 6 hours.

My friend Kim is coming over this afternoon after lunch, and I think we're going to go 'dumpster diving'. It's not as gross as it sounds. Lots of people in the area discard furniture when they're moving, or when they get new stuff. Since 2nd hand items are considered 'unlucky' here, things like chairs, desks, couches, tables etc. just get tossed out. So aroung out apartment complex, the trash pick-up areas often look like free yard sales. Most of our house is furnished with local discarded items. Kim spotted a nice sofa yesterday, so we're going to go check it out.

Hmm, I've been so busy relaxing lately I hardly have anything to write about. Nice.

Friday, January 16, 2004

ahhhhh. I've just finished my 4th 9 hour day this week. I picked up some 'street meat'on the way home (lumps of mystery meat on a stick, covered in a red sauce that's designed to help protect the secret identity of the meat in question.) good stuff.

This is also the start of NINE days off. Sideshow Bob is leaving for Japan at 3:30 tomorrow morning, and Mike is heading to the Phillipines a few hours after that. I cannot express how excited I am to have the house to myself.

Since this is the Lunar New Year holiday, I am preparing myself to face the "Year of the Monkey". Lunar New Year is also the day that everyone in Korea eats a special soup to signify that they are one year older. Koreans don't age on their birthday....they age at New Year. Based on Korean calculations, I'll be turning 30 on Thursday. ugh.

One of my kids came to school dressed as Superman today. Cape and all. Another one tried to eat his scissors. What a day.

Monday, January 12, 2004

It's SNOWING!!!!

Yes indeed. Big thick wet flakes that sting your eyes and stick to your shoes, and cover the ground! I'm pretty excited about looking out our living room wall tonight! (For those of you who don't remember, our 'wall' is floor to ceiling, corner to corner sliding glass doors.) It gives a great view of flakes whizzing past the streetlights, and covering the hillside. It also reminds me of item #8 on my "Why I love Apartments" list...I don't have to shovel it!!

For those of you suffering through a frigid Canadian winter, (Ha, Ha) this news probably isn't exciting. However, this is the first snow that's hit the ground here and I'm pretty thrilled. It's really windy too, so I might even classify this as a mini-blizzard. sweet.

Friday, January 09, 2004

I was trying to explain the book "Baby Animals Learn" to my kindergarteners. I started by explaining that they used to be babies. (hard to do, when they don't have any understanding of English in the past tense.) So, I counted down... "Beth, how old are you?" "6". We all held up six fingers, and counted down to 1...when Beth was a baby. I repeated this a few times, and they started to catch on. Then, to fill them all with awe, I revealed that "Janice Teacher is TWENTY-EIGHT!!" (Insert squeals of laughter here). Then, we counted down many,many,many years until Janice Teacher was a baby. .... This is when little John (not to be confused with Robin Hood's sidekick) understood completely, and got up and 'lifted' me up (or tried to) as though he was cradling an infant. From that point on, for the rest of the lesson, I was "Baby Teacher".

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

One of my 1st graders was relying a little too heavily on picture cues. We were going through a series of pictures, showing an animal eating, as we practiced the phrase pattern - "Squirrels eat ....nuts. Panda's eat...bamboo, Bears". Finally, we came to the last picture, of a boy sitting down to a meal with his family, at which point I learned that "People eat...their families"! Yuck!

I haven't written much lately, as we've started "Intensives". Yes, it's winter vacation for boys and girls across Korea....a time when all good parents enroll their kids for EXTRA classes at their extra-curricular learning centers. Yup, now that the poor kids are on holidays, they have lots of extra time to rush between extra Math, Computer, English, Piano and Taekwondo classes. That means that we're all working extra hours too.

We've got a decent holiday coming up in a week and a half though. I (and some friends) are planning to go to the DMZ that divides North and South Korea. It should be an interesting trip!

Thursday, January 01, 2004


I had a great night last night...and into the wee hours as well. Best wishes to all for the coming year.