Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cherry Blossom Festival in Chinhae

Saturday, April 8th I went to Chinhae to see the Cherry Blossom Festival. It is said to be the most famous place to see the cherry trees in blossom in all of Korea. It was wonderful to see! The blossoms had just started to fall from the trees and they littered the ground and people like confetti.

Looking Down on ChinhaeThis shows the view from the tower - all 364 steps of it - looking out toward the Naval Base at Chinhae.

To get to Chinhae from Busan I went to the Express Bus Terminal in Nopo-dong. I took the subway there from Dongnae. The bus terminal is connected to the subway station so it was easy to find. I just got off the subway at ,stop # 134, Nopo-dong and followed the signs and the crowd of people and there was the Express Bus Terminal [in Korean it is called the "고속 [Go-sok] Bus Terminal"].

Unfortunately, there are only about 6 buses a day that leave there and go to Chinhae and the first bus at 10:50 am was full with only standing room for the hour and forty minute trip. After conferring with my friend, Ray - another Canadian English Teacher, we decided to stand up for the trip since the next bus was leaving for almost another two hours. We were standing near the front of the bus near the driver and there was a few steps there so I decided to sit down and rest for a while and the bus driver said something to me. I started to get up thinking I was allowed to sit so close to the door but instead the bus driver gave me his newspaper to sit on so I wouldn't get dirty. I was so pleased at his kindness. Ray and I took turns sitting down and with us chatting away the trip went quickly.

Chinhae Sign

This is a picture of a sign in Chinhae. Even the signs show the famous cherry blossoms.

Chinhae Town Center

Above is the center of town in Chinhae. It has a small replica of the turtle ship and a town clock.

Coming home we took a different bus that was going to Ssang through Hadan and it was a much quicker trip home only about one hour. I would advise anyone going to Chinhae to go to Ssang and take a bus there at the Inner-city Bus Terminal as there as they seem to leave much more frequently and the trip is a good forty minutes shorter.

Cherry Tree in Bloom The blooming cherry trees are everywhere even over-hanging the streets.

We arrived in Chinhae at lunchtime and the first thing we did was find the market place.

Tents in Chinhae

Here are the tents that house everything from temporary restaurants to games booths.

Barbecued pork seemed to be the specialty. There were whole pigs turning on spits outside almost every tent. The smell was mouth-watering so we decided that would be our lunch. Ray treated me to lunch as I haven't been paid yet since arriving back in Korea [pay day in Korea is the 10th of the month and you are paid just once a month] and the Korean Won is really strong right now so when I turned my Canadian money into Korean Won I didn't get much. It was a wonderful meal and a great start to our visit in Chinhae.

Roasting Pig

This shows a whole pig roasting on a spit - or at least it was a whole pig until people [including Ray and I] ordered lunch.

Ray and I had gone to Chinhae the year before to see the Cherry Blossom Festival and at that time we had toured the Naval Base and seen the turtle ship. This time we decided to climb the tower that over-looks all of Chinhae. It has something like 364 steps to the top. I am so out of shape right now that I wasn't sure I could make it to the top - but we went slow and there were benches along the way to stop and rest at and eventually we made it to the top. It was well worth the climb. The view was incredible. I can't even begin to do it justice with my descriptions so I better just post some pictures - after all they say "A picture is worth a thousand words".

Tower at Chinhae

This shows the tower that if you climb to the top you can get an awesome view of all of Chinhae. It's a long hard climb at least for most people but since there are benches along the way - it is do-able for most people - at least if you go slowly.

Anchor at Naval Base

Above is an anchor at the Naval Base where I took the tour and saw the Turtle Ship. Look at the crowd of people. I never get used to the crowds that seem to be everywhere in Korea.

Chinhae Sailors

Some Chinhae Sailors take a break from climbing the tower.

Turtle Ship

Here is a picture of the turtle ship. I took this in April of 2005 when I visited Chinhae for the first time. The ship is located at the Naval Base and you have to go as part of a bus tour but you can actually line up and get to board the ship and take pictures. *** Warning if you take pictures of restricted areas you will be forced to delete your pictures at least the "classified ones" ask me - it happened to me.***

Getting home from Chinhae proved to be a problem. For one thing we hadn't paid much attention the year before to how to get home since we were with a Korean friend who took care of translating everything for us and knew or could ask how to get bus tickets home, etc. Luckily, we did remember using the bathroom at McDonalds just prior to getting on the bus so we figured if we found McDonalds we could ask someone how to get a bus ticket. That's what we did. We found two Chinhae High School girls and they helped us find a man who was standing on the sidewalk selling tickets. It was them that told us there were no buses back to Nopo-dong only to Ssang via Hadan. I had worked at a school in Hadan my last contract in Busan so I knew how to take the subway and get home from there. So, we bought bus tickets for Ssang. However, it had been a beautiful sunny day and it seems that everyone else had decided to come from Busan by bus and now everyone was trying to go home by bus and all at the same time. Bus after bus passed the bus stop we were standing at and didn't stop cause they were crammed full of people.

School Girl Angels"Joy" and "April" our wonderful translators and self-appointed angels. We never would have gotten back to Busan without their help.

Our two High School girls who had decided to stay with us and help us decided we needed to walk to the bus terminal if we were EVER to get on a bus back to Busan. We thought they would just give us directions but instead they walked us the 20 minutes it took to get from McDonalds to the Chinhae Bus Terminal despite the fact it was getting cold and they were dressed quite lightly. When we got to the bus terminal there were at least 200 other people in line [ahead of us] waiting for a bus to Busan. We joined the line-up and waited as bus after bus filled up and pulled away. It took a good hour to get on a bus. All the while our High School girls waited with us. They even bought us each a chocolate bar when they found out we hadn't had dinner yet. I was so amazed with there kindness to us - two foreigners they didn't know and had no reason to help. I dubbed them "Our School Girl Angels" and we gave them English nicknames. They are called "April" and "Joy". I got took a picture of them and e-mailed it to them with our thanks a few days later. They really restored my faith in humanity and whenever I get frustrated with how crowded and rushed Korea can be I think of them and feel better.

Friday, April 21, 2006

My New Apartment

My apartment is pretty nice if a bit sparce. In Korea they call it a "studio" apartment. It is what we would call a "bachelor" apartment. It is one room and you can lie in bed and look at your kitchen cupboards. But, I like it. It is bright and clean and has a lot of built in cabinets and closets. This sure helps keep the place looking decent when you eat, sleep, and live all in one room.

The major thing that bothers me is that I am lacking even the most basic of supplies. I've taught in Korea for 3 years now and I know not to expect too much from my "housing" but this time out did it's self. There isn't a cup, a knife a fork or a chopstick. There is no chair for the built in desk. Why there isn't even a toilet brush or a broom and dustpan.

So I went out and bought some things that I needed like a kettle [to boil the water before it's safe for consumption] and a plate and a knife, fork and spoon and a pair of chop sticks. I will have to buy more bedding yet as it's still quite cold here. I didn't expect to have to spend my entire first pay check [which I have yet to receive] just to make this place liveable.

Oh well, I am starting to complain and I just got here. So, here are some pictures of my apartment [after I added lots of things to it already]:

My Livingroom

This is a picture of the one room. Notice my clothes drying rack in the back of the room in front of the window. There are no clothes driers in Korea - at least not that I have ever seen. It is called 건 조 대 [Kan Jo Dae]. There wasn't one provided in my apartment so late one night after doing a wash I had to go searching for one and of course I didn't know what it was called. I did a lot of charades and mimicing hanging clothes out and I did know the words for washing machine and clothes and later. So, I said the equilivant of "after" "washer" "clothes" and the English words "dry" and "hanger" and luckily "hanger" is the same in Korean and I actually found what I was looking for at a large department store near my house called MegaMart. It cost 18,200 won or a little over $20.00 Canadian.

Notice my bed is just a mattress on the floor. This is nice in the winter as the heating system is a series of pipes that run hot water under the floor so the floor gets lovely and warm. However, I just can't seem to get used to it sleeping on the floor. I think sometime soon I will try and find a used bedframe somewhere - if it's not too expensive. I don't want to invest in a lot of stuff when every year I move to a new apartment when I sign a new contract.

This is a shot of the kitchen part of my apartment. The washer is the a Tromm brand front load washer. I like it as it gets the clothes pretty dry so that when I hang them on the drying rack they are dry in just a day - even jeans. The down side is that front load washers require a special soap and it's pretty expensive. I had to pay 14,000 won [approximately $ 15.50 Canadian]. It had better go a long way and last a least 4 or 5 months.

There is no real counter space and I don't have a table just a desk and chair. The fridge and freezer are a good size and are hidden in the cupboard to the right of the sink. The stove is two gas burners. I love cooking with gas. After I got over my fear of leaks and explosions [and I don't even smoke] I have come to adore it. It is so fast whenever I use an electric stove now I get so impatient waiting for things to cook and the kettle to boil.

Bathroom Shower

This is a picture of my bathroom shower. It is just shower head hanging on the wall. There is a drain in the middle of the bathroom floor where the water goes. This bathroom is nicer than my last one since there is a glass wall that keeps the toilet [located directly to the right of the wall] from getting wet.

Shower Shoes

This shows the drain in the middle of the bathroom floor and my clear plastic bathroom shoes. Since the entire bathroom gets wet when I shower, I have to wear these shoes for hours after when entering the bathroom [until the bathroom is dry] to keep from slipping and falling and to keep my socks dry.

In Korea you will find plastic shoes to wear to the bathroom in almost every restaurant and apartment in Korea. The upside is that that bathroom is always clean cause it gets washed daily.

Electronic Toilet

I have a fancy toilet that even has a bidet feature. However, it is all in Korean and since I don't know how to use it I unplugged it so that I don't get any nasty little surprises by accidently hitting the wrong button. It has a regular flush so I was able to do this - and now it acts just like a regular toilet. In some Western restaurants I've seen the same kind of electronic toilets and in the winter the seats are even heated. It is just so amazing to me that I have a toilet like this in my apartment and in my school there are only squat toilets without even any toilet paper. Quite a contrast!

TV & Microwave

This is a picture of my dresser with my microwave and TV. I get cable so I have English CNN and some good stations that have movies in English and popular shows like "Sex & the City" and "Project Runway" and "Hell's Kitchen". Reality TV is alive and well in Korea.


Well, that's my new home. I am settling in and eventually I might add some creature comforts like a bedframe and maybe even a small table and chair to eat at. For now I am fine eating in front of the TV or computer.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I am back in Busan, Korea

Well after almost twenty hours in the air and four airplanes I arrived safely back in Busan, South Korea. I got internet a few days ago but I caught a cold and between getting used to my new school [where I am the only foreigner] and nursing my cold I haven't had the time or inclination to make a posting to my blog until now.

One thing I had forgotten about Korea, and well Asia, for that matter is that smoking is so socially acceptable here - especially for men. In Canada, you can't even smoke in bars anymore and even in the parking lots of some hospitals [Cumberland County Hospital in Amherst, Nova Scotia - to name one]. Being home in Canada for a number of months I had forgotten that it was any other way.

In the Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea I found this smoking section which isn't ventilated or closed off from the rest of the area. As, you can see in the photo below the walls aren't even closed in. It sort of reminds me of the old days in Canada when the difference between the smoking and non-smoking section was a sign.

Incheon Airport Smoking Section

I have lots more to write about but I want to go to bed early and nurse my cold some more. Luckily, I brought cold medicine from Canada. Thank you NyQuil LiquiCaps! Here in Korea you can't just buy cold medicine. You have to see a doctor and get a presciption for so type of medication which usually includes anti-bodics of some type. Well, night-night.