Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekly Roundup

Here are some pics from the week:

Would a Mediterranean salad have squid in it?
Yes that's two girls dancing like it's Dirty Dancing.

Watch yourself!!

Kids are funny.

The only recycling bins I've seen in Korea.

Random Fact of the Day:  Ziploc bags are made here in Korea!  Who knew?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mudeung Mountain Night Hike

            Last weekend I went and joined some people to do a night hike up Mudeung Mountain here in Gwangju.  It’s a beautiful setting and I was excited to do something different and meet some new people.
            We all met up at 9:30, waited for some more people and made our way up.  The group itself was a pretty mixed group with some people knowing one another and the rest of us meeting for the first time.  Amanda and Scott, the Jersey couple, came out for the hike so we spent some time catching up and talking about Thor.  They too had noticed how the Koreans didn’t get all the jokes and that they would be the only ones laughing in the theater!
            The climb wasn’t that bad since a third of it was lit by streetlamps on the trail and everyone had flashlights or headlamps so it was pretty easy going up the mountain. 
Walking up with the lights.

            Once we were near the last third of the hike our leader Brian says that there’s a split in the path and to the left the path goes straight up the side of the mountain and is pretty challenging.  I was at the back of the group and I stared at the path as everyone passed me walking up the path that was easier for the group.
            Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh man now Logan’s going to have an existential moment about whether to go on the path that’s easier and is taken by the crowd or choosing to go up the path that’s harder, isn’t known and is without a guide.  I’m sure that he’ll tie the moment through a metaphor that describes moving here to Korea to break away from the crowd, to go on a new path of life without a guide and that has a much steeper learning curve than what the path the crowd chooses to walk on. Plus he’ll even throw in an overused Robert Frost quote to perfectly tie it all together and impress us with his incredible pretentious writing skills.”
            Well a year ago my friend you would’ve been correct in assuming that but I actually thought about how much light the Moon was giving off.  I’m sure that you’d assume that to go on a night hike you’d need a flashlight but I’d forgotten to read that important memo and was now seeing how much light the Moon was putting on the mountain.  Well I ascertained that it was plenty enough for me and started up the path for the challenge of seeing if I could climb the steep path.  I made it about 50ft up the path when I heard a guy say, “Hey I’ll join you mate.”  He’s got a flashlight so I was down.  We introduced ourselves, his name was James, and made up our way up the mountain talking about moving here and what we want out of the experience.  I quickly learned that he was well read and also practices Hapkido, plays Rugby and moved here on his own about six months ago from South Africa so that he could be alone, read and write.  Wow doesn’t that sound familiar?
My flashlight:  Luna.

View from the path that James and I were climbing.
            We made it up to the top of the mountain ahead of the group and that’s when I realized that the Bogota we’re at is the same one that I see every day from my apartment!  I loved realizing how it all came full circle so James and I opened our celebratory drinks, chatted for a bit and took in the view.

                The guy talking is James and he's commenting on his Hapkido tournament.

            After everyone had caught up we hung out for a couple of hours on the Bogota talking about anything and everything but my favorite topic of the night had been making fun of Charlie Sheen.  After making our way back down the mountain we all went downtown, had some drinks and I made it home after dawn.  When I had woken up I found a Jack Daniels ashtray in my backpack but that’s a story for another day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekly Roundup

Here are the random pics from the week:
Making his own mechanical pencil.

This is one of my best students finding out my last name was Monday.  She laughed for a good two minutes!

This is what happens when the owner of my favorite coffee shop gets bored.
Nice park in the middle of downtown.

You're either a Toms fan or a Clark's fan but not both.

All the cars have the blue pads and their side-view mirrors collapse so they don't get dinged up.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Going to the Movies

            So over the weekend I went to the movies here in Gwangju.  I heard that I might be able to check out Thor so I wanted to see if I could do just that.  I knew that there were a couple of theaters around downtown but I had no clue where to find them.  I decided to go to the Gwangju International Center to ask them and they were able to give me directions to a theater only a couple of blocks away.
            I head to the theater but they are not showing Thor.  I’m pretty disappointed and I try to ask the ticket vender but he has no idea what I’m saying.  Fortunately the couple that heard me trying to talk to me did know what I was saying.  But instead of trying to give me directions they had me follow them instead!  I couldn’t believe it but they walked me a couple of blocks and voila there was the movie theater!  I gave them many thanks and will certainly remember to pay their kindness forward if I see someone in a similar situation.
            I go inside, head upstairs and go straight to the customer service ticket desk.  I figure that they will have more patience with me than the regular ticket venders.  I also grabbed a Thor mini-movie poster just so I could make sure she knew what I wanted.  I really didn’t need it because she spoke good enough English to not only listen to me but also order my ticket.  The real kicker about ordering my ticket was that you can RESERVE your seat in the theater!  You read that right you can reserve your seat in the theater.  Now I knew why no one was rushing around or hurrying to get to a theater because they had no need to save any seats.  I felt like I was in Bizarro World and I had no idea what to do. 

My seat is the one in pink on the upper left.
            So with that extra time I decided to try and buy some snacks but they didn’t have any candy just nachos and I wasn’t in the mood for those.  So I went ahead and decided to go to the theater.  I go up some narrow escalators, get my ticket checked and then head up to the seventh floor.  Once I’m there I’m still a good 20 minutes early but I figure that’ll be ok because everyone else will be getting there early too.  Nope once again I was wrong because they don’t have to save seats so the theater screen was still closed since they were cleaning it. 

Very narrow escalators

            With 10 minutes before the movie started they opened the doors and we all filed in.  I found my seat, row F seat 10, endured some awful Korean commercials and then enjoyed a good summer comic-book blockbuster.  But I wonder why the Koreas go and watch a comic-book movie?  Especially Thor since he’s originally from the mythology of the Norse and I’ve talked about how Koreans don’t understand irony so I’m positive they’re not understanding the entire movie but whatever I was the only one laughing at half the jokes so it’s not my problem.  And next time I go to see a movie I’m showing up five minutes beforehand.
Can you see the numbers for the seats?
         Also I want to congratulate my cousin for graduating from Medical school, my girlfriend for graduating from undergrad and my best friend for doing the same.  Awesome job guys!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekly Roundup

          Alright I'm starting up a weekly post of pictures for things that I see around Korea that don't have a post or topic to fit into.  Enjoy!

Yes, Lincoln actually was a hipster with bad grammar.

Corona with a lemon because there are no limes in Korea. 

In case you were wondering just what a pretzel is exactly.
Those spots are gum from where the kids throw them out the bathroom windows.

These golf ranges on top of the roof are all over Korea.

It tasted as good as it looks.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dragon of Death

            Today is Children’s Day here in Korea or known back home as Cinco de Mayo so instead of celebrating I went to the grocery store.  There are plenty of neighborhood grocery stores here but most people go to HomePlus to get the more familiar necessities.  There are a couple of HomePlus’s in Gwangju but I go to the closest one to where I live which is at Gyea Nim Dong.  It’s a three story building that’s basically a Korean Wal-Mart.  Each floor has different supplies on it, for instance the main floor is the grocery floor, the second floor is clothes and appliances and the top floor is for anything else the other two don’t have.  One thing that is pretty cool is that when you're going to the different floors you use escalators that are ramps, not stairs and are magnetic.  It's such a great innovation and is perfect to go up or down the different levels in the store.
            The shopping itself isn’t really different from home but they do sell wine, liquor, beer and cartons of cigarettes in the store.  There are no liquor stores in Korea so they throw it all together and put in the corner of the store.  After getting everything I head to the checkout counter and prepare to dual with the Dragon of Death or otherwise known as the HomePlus cashier. 
            Now the HomePlus cashier is nice enough at the start, they say hi and start to swipe your groceries but that is where their front ends.  Because after swiping your groceries they take your money and then stare at you.  None of them will bag your groceries or help whatsoever.  You have to ask for a paper bag, maybe you’re suppose to bring a bag on your own, just to get your stuff organized.
An example of my frustration with this is made clear when today my cashier pushed my groceries out of the way so the next customer could get his batteries, his batteries!  I about snapped at him I was so insulted. I mean he wouldn’t have to try and hurry me if someone was helping me bag the damn things.  It isn't lazyness to me, it's much more efficient and aren't Koreans about efficiency?

On the little girl's national holiday she's bagging her groceries.

            So after you deal with the Dragon of Death cashier and you have a lot of groceries you have to put them in cardboard boxes that you pick out, assemble together and then put your groceries in.  Oh and you’re doing this with 10 other people around you trying to do the same thing.

Picking out your box(s).

Assembling, stuffing and taping the boxes.

Dealing with the crowds.  You can see the escalator in the background.

            I don’t understand it at all because Korea might be big on recycling and reusing but they also do not have outside trash cans or recycling containers.  Instead they have piles of trash that are taken away by senior citizens so they can earn some cash.  It’s the Abbott and Costello of garbage and recycling.  Anyone know why this is case?  I can’t think of a Korean or Asian reason for the Dragon of Death’s actions.

The people in the bright vests are the senior citizens collecting the trash.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden's Death

It’s been nearly 10 years since Al Qaeda declared war on America by high jacking planes and flying them into the World Trade Center killing over 3,000 civilians.  Since then we’ve invaded two Arab nations, killed Al Qaeda leaders and scared the living hell out of the world by showing what happens when you poke a sleeping bear in the eye.  However we had not been able to capture or kill the man who was responsible for the attacks, Osama Bin Laden.  This is no longer true as he was declared dead by President Obama earlier today. 
            I’m not going to talk about the geopolitical consequences from 9-11, I’m going to talk about how I feel knowing that Bin Laden is dead.  You never want to see a person die but I will make a special exception for him.  9-11 is my generations Pearl Harbor, Iraq is our Korean War and Afghanistan our Vietnam.  But what’s different for us is that all of these events were directly caused by one man’s hatred for our way of life.  He wanted 9-11 to break us, to show that we would beg for mercy and bow to a terrorists demands but instead his actions accomplished the exact opposite.  We rose up together helping brush the dust from the World Trade Center off our collective shoulders and went to war against Al Qaeda.
            I remember sitting in Ms. Brashear’s Spanish I class my junior year in high school when she left the room and came back completely white in shock.  She didn’t tell us what happened but we found out anyways.   That day was full of confusion with kid’s parents coming and getting them out of school since no one was sure if there would be more attacks.  But over time we found who was responsible and why they acted the way they did. 
            The next day Ms. Brashear’s came into class and briefly talked about the attack.  She was standing there, explaining it to us when she suddenly stopped because she was about to cry.  She stood there holding herself together and we watched her.  I wanted to get up and give her a hug because honestly I needed one too but I didn’t.  That is the only regret of my life was not giving her that hug.  I didn’t know any New Yorkers nor anyone who had died from the attacks but I knew from seeing her cry just how close we American’s are to one another despite the distance between our borders.
            This has become more evident to me as I’ve gotten older because I’ve met so many people who’ve shared their stories about that day.  While I was interning in DC I spoke to many people who were in New York or Washington on 9-11 or knew someone that had experienced the loss of someone because of the attack.  Hearing those stories and talking to those people really hit home that 9-11 was a day we all share as a nation not through our regional locations but as American’s.
            I have no idea how the people whose loved ones are gone from either dying on 9-11 or in serving our country feel today.  Does Bin Laden’s death make it any easier for them?  That’s up for them to decide but I hope it helps.  It gives me some closure knowing that our government never quit on catching him and that he is now dead.  I really would like to be home today to give my family a hug, my girlfriend a kiss and the nearest serviceman a thank you.  I would also like to thank the men and women who do serve in our military and to the people in the CIA and Special Forces.  All of your work allows people like me a chance to live the life I want.  Thank you. 
          And remember it’s always better to spit in the wind then poke a sleeping bear in the eye.