Monday, March 24, 2014

Hiking venture number one

Time to drop some knowledge:

Seoul is surrounded by mountains. In fact, South Korea is about 340% mountains.

On Saturday, I went with a few friends to Bukhansan Park to go hiking. Guys, the park is so close, you can take the subway and then walk to the trail head. DC, take note.

We met up at 8:00am and started the trek. We gained elevation pretty quickly.

This was one of approximately three flat portions of the trek.

Seoul. It's massive.
This park has many peaks. We were able to summit three during this trip.
Destination: Up.

Peak #1 (can't recall the name)

Peak #2 (Bibong) in the foreground.

Top of Bibong by a tablet with Chinese characters on it.

I'll be honest...I can't remember what the significance of this tablet is. But it's pretty cool.

"Hyun" carved into the rock.

Peak #3 (again, can't remember the name) on the left. We went up there, but for some reason, I didn't take many pictures of the view.
At this point, it was around noon and we decided to wrap things up. We started heading down and saw some signs for "Seungasa Temple." I loved seeing the Buddhist temples the last time I was in Asia, so I was excited to see a few during my sojourn.

This first temple did not disappoint.

The detail is incredible.

This Buddha carving may have been made as early as the 10th century.

Born in the year of the ox, baby. The rest of the staircase had other Chinese Zodiac animals.

"Kids. Hands. Watch 'em."
Great discovery, great day. I'm definitely looking forward to doing more of this, especially since the weather is warming up.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

RIP, P (Rest In Peace, Pastry)

Minutes ago, a tragic event occurred.

It all started last night. One of my Korean friends, Wonki Lee, contacted me on Skype and wanted to meet up. It was 10:15pm, so I was like, "Cool."

Tangent - I met Wonki in 2010, when I was working for ACYPL. I have met many people and have formed several cherished relationships, but Wonki is among the kindest people that I have met.

Untangent - Wonki drove to my place and picked me up. Since it was getting late and he lived about 30 minutes away, he suggested that I stay the night. I ran up to my room, grabbed what I needed for church, and left with Wonki.

On the way to his home, Wonki decided to stop at a bakery and buy out half the shop. One of the things he bought was a cake. For me. If I can be halfway as giving as this guy, I will have made it. We ate a couple pieces together (after I blew out the tall candle, of course):

Winner of the Happiest Man in the Northern Hemisphere contest: Wonki Lee.

After staying the night, I went with Wonki's brother, James, to the LDS church nearby. I put the cake in the fridge for the block, retrieved it at the end, and took it on the subway for a 40 minute ride back home. The cake box even had two handles for convenience...but as I was going up my apartment stairs, another "convenient" feature of the box made itself very apparent.

The side hatch.

You see, as I was going upstairs, I held the box in such a way that the cake slid out and fell top down onto the stairs.

The scene of the crime. The second step was covered in whipped cream and fruit.
 All I could do was laugh, shake my head, and clean up the mess.

The remains...the surviving cake on the left, and the recently deceased whipped cream, fruit, and napkins in the box on the right.

The Chronicles of Cheonggyecheon

Being under the weather prompts different reactions.

Some people stay at home and drink warm chicken broth. I call these people wise.

Some people do a bit of exercise to sweat the gunk out. I call these people awesome.

Some go to work (unless they're uber mccontagious). I call these people driven.

And then...there's me.

After Skyping with my family and watching eleventy billion Jimmy Fallon clips, I decided that I wanted to take a walk through a part of Seoul that I had visited back in 2012: Cheonggyecheon Stream.

Cheonggyecheon begins with a prominent marker:

Please feel free to guess what this is. Most popular guess will give the winner a year's supply of virtual kimchi.
The area is a pretty nice break from Seoul's urban atmosphere.

The walk started off well with me scatting what I know about the stream:

Then, I spotted majestic feathered fauna:

After a while, it was time to bust out the bug guns:

This stream runs for about 8km/5 miles, and I decided to walk all of them. In the cold. While not at peak health.

Don't get me wrong...if my camera hadn't run out of batteries, I would be able to woo you with pictures of bridges, random outdoor equipment, and a golden Cinderella carriage.

That said, I am going to sleep really well tonight, because I am BEAT!

Here ends the chronicle.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Week one of teaching: Done

The last several days have been busy, and dare I say, LONG. Here's a sampling of why...

- My teaching schedule has me teaching three English classes to adults in the morning (7am, 8am, and 11am) and four (five on Tuesdays and Thursdays) English classes to children/tweens in the afternoon (basically 3:30pm to 4:45pm). I can hear my teacher friends now: "Dude. That's no schedule. That's paradise." I'm sure I'll look back several months from now and agree.
- My apartment came with some basic furnishings, but I've taken quite a bit of time this week to hunt down and buy some other necessities.
- My director, while being a very nice man, is about 30% fluent in English. This makes for some interesting communication.
- I've been a bit under the weather since Wednesday afternoon.
- I have had to face the music: I am in a foreign country, and there are adjustments that I'm going to make, such as getting used to the spam/vomit hybrid smell outside my apartment.

All of this can be summed up in one picture:

ToTeS LoViNg It LoLoLoL...yeah, something like that.
BUT...there's a lot to be grateful for.
- I have an apartment to myself, and the basic rent is covered. That's pretty awesome.
- My coworkers are pretty fantastic people, and they have been helping me adjust. One of them, Lani, helped me to get internet set up in my apartment. I have her to thank for the fact that I can blog from home.
- I didn't go into much detail about this, but my orientation was pretty great. In addition to helping me get my feet on the ground, the orientation introduced me to some incredible people. Basically, after orientation classes during the day, we would hang out and laugh.
- I live in a cool part of Seoul that is just north of the Han River.

That's N Seoul Tower in the distance.
Hey. I signed up for an adventure, and an adventure I'm getting. :)


Hey all, sorry for the brief hiatus. I have been getting settled into my new apartment and battling some sickness, but I'll write more on that later.

This post is all about the meow.

My voice is a bit muffled in the video (I can't be responsible for scaring cats and raising their kitty blood pressure during my first week here, can I?), but basically, the gist is that you pay a fee to have a drink and play with the cats. In East Asia, due to work schedules and limited home space, these cat cafes help felineophiles to fill their "D'AWW" gauges.

This cafe had around twenty cats. No joke.