Sunday, September 24, 2006


I recently went to Gwangju 관주 in Jeollanam-do [a province to the South West of Korea]. It is a province known for its rich agricultural lands. In fact, it has a history of tensions between it and Gyeongsangnam-do the province I live in and where Busan is the major city. The tensions seem to as a result of Jeollanam-do being an argicutural province and so financially much poorer than Gyeongsangnam-do a more industrial province.

I left on a Friday night at midnight on my 277.6 km journey. I took a night bus called a 우 등 [uh dung] which means it is a luxury bus that has only 3 seats per aisle and they are like armchairs and they recline so you can really relax and even sleep if you want. It was very posh and very nice.

We started our trip in Nopo-dong in Busan at the express bus terminal.

Here is a photo of our luxury bus. It is definately the way to travel especially at night and for trips that last 3 and 1/2 hours like our trip was.

We had a rest top half way through our trip and I went to the restroom. On the way there I noticed this large display board showing grisly photos of traffic accidents. Not exactly reassuring. I guess they believe in the adage "Scared Sober" at least in regards to their Drunk Driving Campaigns.

The first place we were off to on Saturday was a green tea planation. It was in a place called Boseong 보성. It was called Boseong DaWon 보 성 다원 which means tea planation or garden. I was surprised to discover that green tea grows in waist high shrubs. I'm not sure how I thought it grew but I guess I thought it grew close to the ground. This is me and my three friends at the tea planation.

The tea planation was massive and it covered the side of the mountain in curving patterns. It must make it difficult to harvast with machinery.

There was a stream running through the tall trees leading to the gardens surrounding the tea planation.

There was a lake in the distance surrounded by fields of green tea. One thing I noticed was how green everything was and how clean the air was. It actually smelled clean and fresh. Since then I have noticed that one thing missing in the big cities of Korea is fresh clean air - being from small town Canada I miss that. This weekend and the scenery reminded a lot of home [except there are no mountains near my home].

We had lunch at a Korean restaurant and the food was great! It was seafood and there were posters on the wall saying that they used green tea in the preparation and cooking of some of their dishes.

After lunch we were off to Nagan and a Folk Village that included a walled fortress. It just outside of the city of Suncheon 순천. It is called 낙안민속마을 [nak an min sok ma ul]. It was amazing! At the gates of the fortress there were these Pages. I felt like I was living in The King and the Clown movie with Lee, Jun-Ki.

There were musicians playing instruments and dancing around. I've seen them before elsewhere in Korea but it seemed more athentic to see it here.

I love the totem poles that can be found at most tourist attractions in Korea.

Me and two of my friends posing for the camera.

A picture from the walls of the fortress looking off into the distance.

I am told that although this is a Folk Village people actually live here. They are subsided by the Korean government to live and work here. There is even a water wheel.

There are thatched huts and squash vines growing everywhere.

Later that night we went to a resort. It was amazing. It even had a fablous pool.

The next day were were off to the Gwangju Biennale. It is an art show that is held every two years [in case you did guess that by the name]. There I was interviewed by Arirang TV about my impressions of the art exhibit. The problem was they asked us on the way into the show and despite our protests they pressured us to comment. So, since I had read about the exhibit in my Lonely Planet Korea book I bluffed some sort of answer. Wonder if it will ever air on Arirang? I'm not sure I want it to.

One of my favorite displays was this massive outdoor display of flowers. They are made of some kind of fabric and air is blown into them to keep there puffed out.

A close up look at the same flowers.

This photo doesn't do the exhibit justice. It was my favorite piece. It was a room with a piano and chairs and artist had constructed a giant spider web out of black string. I keep looking at it wondering how long it took to construct and marvelling at the fact that it only seemed to be tacked to the walls in a dozen or so places and still hung in the air. It still boggles my mind how the artist was able to do that without more stabilizing from the ceiling and walls.

After three of four hours at the exhibit we were off to dinner. Duck soup 오리 탕 [ori tang] is famous in Gwangju so we decided to try it for our last meal in town. It is supposed to stain your clothes terribly if you get it on you so we were given these aprons to wear to protect our clothes.

At the end of our day we were off to the Gwangju Bus station in U-Square. Gwangju might be only the 6th largest city in Korea but its bus station puts some of the bigger city stations to shame. U-Square has make-up stores, convenience stores, a bookstore with 3 aisles of English novels [even Lonely Planet Guide Books in English], and restaurants. I wish Busan had such a nice bus station.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


At the risk of sounding like John Walsh and America's Most Wanted [who I admire a lot for the way he has taken a personal tragedy and used it as motivation to try and change society for the better] I have gotten a lot of comments from people as of late so I decided it is time to up-date people on a few things I have been blogging about.

In my post on "Red Devils - Korean Soccer Fans" Jonathan a teacher on Long Island said he was glad to know that the alternative spelling of Korea with a C was not just a spelling error. I had promised to check into the reason for the spelling of Corea. I learned that Korea used to be spelled with a C. However, when Japan invaded Korea in the early 1900s Japan changed the spelling of Korea to start with a K. This meant that when countries were listed alphabetically Japan was listed above Korea. Koreans now want to change the spelling back to the original way it was spelled. I have not been able to find this written about anywhere but this is what every Korean knows and will tell you when asked about the spelling of their country's name.

This is the picture I posted that inspired the comment by Jonathan.


When I wrote my post "Revisiting Gumi and Daegu" I posted a picture of the Gumi train station and mentioned my surprise that it STILL wasn't completed nearly 2 years later. Travis wrote to me and told me that the reason for the slow progess was contract disputes. Thanks for the info, Travis. Another mystery solved.

This is a picture I previously posted of the still unfinished Gumi Train Station.

In my post "Adventures in Cooking" I wrote about my struggle to learn to cook and my growing skills in the kitchen. I am pleased to report that I am continuing to improve my cooking despite not having an oven. I recently made my first banana bread EVER and it was fantasic - if I do say so myself.

My toaster oven. The only way I have of baking anything here in Korea. It's almost 3 years old but I love it cause it's so big I can cook most anything in it. It will even hold a full-sized loaf pan for making meat loaf or banana bread.

My first banana bread. It turned out so well I have made a couple more. I plan to try a cinnamin bread someday soon. Cinnamin is one of the few spices that is easy to find and buy in Korea and I love it so much - I even put it in my coffee sometimes for an extra zing.

Last but not least last week when I wrote about "Vacations" I meantioned how difficult [if not impossible] it is to get airline tickets to go anywhere for Chulsok - the Korean Thanksgiving - but that I was on a waiting list. Well, thanks to Mode Travel being next door and my persistence [I literally went there everyday to see if anyone had cancelled their airline tickets] I got tickets for myself and my friend "Ray" to go to Taipei, Taiwan. Yipee! We will leave on October 3rd and we can even fly out of Busan. We will have to transfer planes in Incheon [the International airport in Seoul] but that's a small thing and it means we don't have to take the train. We will be in Taipei by lunch time. We will stay until Sunday, October 8th when we will fly back to Incheon. Unfortunately, we will have to take the train [and the slow one at that] from Seoul back to Busan and it's a five hour trip but I don't even care about that. Mode Travel was even able to book our train tickets for us. Moreover, they even hooked us up with travel insurance throught AIG. I still have to pinch myself to make sure it is real and that I really got tickets out of Korea for Chulsok. Everyone I know is bummed out cause they can't get tickets anywhere for their vacation. I feel like a very lucky girl! Yipee!

I went to Kyobo Bookstore in Seomyeon last night and ordered a Lonely Planet book on Taiwan. They had lots of Lonely Planets books and a good selection of English books and novels but, alas, they didn't have the Taiwan one. They said it should arrive in about a week. I hope so cause we don't have any idea what to see in Taiwan and where to stay. I want to see Taipai but I'd love to go somewhere else with a beach and some natural beauty for a few days. If any of you readers has been to Taiwan and can recommend somewhere please let me know. You can comment on this post or shot me off an e-mail. I'd really appreciate any advice anyone can give me.

Our airline tickets to Taipei, Taiwan.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


When I thought about coming to teach in South Korea over three years ago I thought about how nice it would be to travel on my vacations. I had several friends who had taught here and they had all gone to Thailand for their Christmas vacation, etc. I thought I would be able to do the same. Well, the fact of the matter is that if you work at a "Hogwon" [private language school] often you don't get more than three consecutive days off for a holiday. It is true that some schools close down for a week in the summer and a week at Christmas time giving the teachers that work there time to travel but from my experience this seems to be the exception - not the norm.

I hope very much that if I come back for another year to teach in Korea that I can get a job in a university or a public school. That way I would get about five weeks of vacation time in the summer to travel.

So far, I have seen most of Korea even traveling to the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] for the Lunar New Year in February 2004 and I've been to Fukuoka, Japan at least three times on over-night Visa runs. But as for traveling and getting to see a lot of Asia I have not really gotten to do so. With one exception. In February 2005 for the Lunar New Year's holiday I got to take a tour of Beijing, China. I went with Kangsan Travel [an English Travel Agency here in Busan - I have a link to them on the sidebar of this blog].

Right now I am trying desperately to get plane tickets for Chulsok 추석 [the Korean Thanksgiving holiday]. It is based on the Lunar Calendar so the date changes each year. This year it is from Thursday, October 5th to and including Sunday, October 8th. Moreover, Tuesday, October 3rd is a legal holiday 개천절 [Kae Chun Chul] what we call Foundation day in English and I managed with much begging to get my boss to give me Wednesday, October 4th off. What that means is I have from Monday night at 10 pm until the following Monday afternoon at 2:00 pm off on holiday - almost a whole week. It is almost unheard of to get that much time off in Korea and especially from a private language school. I am so excited I can't stand it!

However, despite what I thought - that it was a time when every Korean went home to see their families - it seems that in actuality every Korean has already booked airline tickets out of the country. I some how managed to get two tickets booked for October 3rd to Taipei, Taiwan but so far I can't get any tickets back to Korea. I am on the cancellation list and I pop by the travel agency everyday to see if seats have become available but so far there are still no tickets. I could come back on Tuesday, October 10th no problem but there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY EITHER MYSELF OF MY FRIEND CAN GET ANYMORE TIME OFF WORK!!!

Everyone keeps telling me I should have booked my tickets months ago. Maybe I'll find out when Lunar New Year is in 2007 and book my tickets now. At least that way I might finally make it to Thailand. I'm not kidding - I'm considering it - quite seriously. It seems that there are no extra flights put on for holidays - making travel at any holiday time a nightmare. Well, I've learned my lesson. As the Boy Scouts say "Be prepared". Come next holiday - I intend to be.


Here are some pictures from my first real vacation in Korea. I went to the DMZ and did the 3rd tunnel tour in February of 2004. It was amazing to see.

This is looking out the window and looking over North Korea. This was taken from the Dora-san Observatory.

This is the Dora-san Observatory where you can look over towards North Korea.

This was taken inside the 3rd tunnel. This was a tunnel that was discovered in 1978 and was only 44 kms and less than one hours drive from Seoul. It is said to have been capable of moving a full divison per hour and was designed by North Korea for the purpose of making a surprise attack on Seoul. Scary!

This fence marks the boundary of the DMZ or should I say No-Man's Land - between North and South Korea.

Every Lunar New Year South Koreans hold a rally where they show their support for the reunification of North and South Korea and their desire to see their relatives who live in North Korea.

Here is a watch tower that is located in the DMZ. It is so stark looking that I wanted to use Black and White Film [I didn't have a digital camera at this point so I had to scan this photos into my computer] to emphasis that aspect of the scene.

Stay tuned for up-dates on my potential trip to Taipei.

Friday, September 08, 2006

My Post this week will be a few days late

Hey Everybody:

Just a very quick note to say that I am okay and will be doing my weekly post. However, it is going to be delayed a few days. It won't be available on Sunday this week as it usually is.

I am going away for the weekend in Gwangju and despite my best intentions to have my post ready it hasn't happened - life got in the way.

What do I mean by that? Well let's see:

My life has been good but very busy of late with dental appointments, Korean classes [yes, I am continuing to try and improve my Korean], meetings at work and just my normal [heavy] teaching schedule at three schools [and yes I have a legal visa to teach at all three since it's one owner and thus one pay check]. Huh... just thinking about my schedule makes me feel tired.

So check back on Tuesday or Wednesday for my weekly post [albeit a late one]. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Bye for now,

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Adventures in Cooking

I have a confession. I can't cook - or at least I couldn't when I moved to Korea over 3 years ago. As my friend and former roommate, "Ray", will tell you I even "burned water". My mother would say that, "I couldn't boil water".

The burning water joke is actually closer to truth than fiction. One day when I lived in Yangsan, a suburb of Busan I was boiling water for tea on our gas range. The stove was located directly in front of a window. As I stood there waiting for the water to boil I looked out the window and saw the most incredible sight. I saw these paragliders sailing over our apartment building and a 6 lane highway to land in an empty field across the street from our apartment. Without thinking I grabbed by camera and ran out to take some pictures. However, I left the kettle on the gas burner and didn't turn it off. OPPS! I was gone maybe half an hour. I returned to find the apartment smoky and the kettle boiled dry and scorched and the handle of the kettle completely melted. I tried to air out the apartment before my roommate returned but I couldn't find a replacement kettle on such short notice so he saw the evidence. I have never been able to live it down. In hindsight it is pretty funny and I am just lucky I didn't burn down the apartment or the entire building.

This is a kettle like the one I burned up.

This was the first glimpse I had of the paragliders when I ran out of the apartment with my camera. I wish I had had a telephoto lens. There are four of them and it looks like a couple of them are close to colliding.

Here's a picture I took of them landing across the road.

This is my favorite picture of the paragliders.

Another shot of them landing.

I went picture crazy taking photos of these paragliders.

The sky really was this blue that day. I wanted so much to be up in the air with them. It seemed so amazing. I imagine it would be quiet and peaceful sailing through the air like that.

Within minutes the clouds rolled in and it got cloudy looking.

Taking all those pictures took time and allowed the kettle to burn up. I always forget that gas is so much more powerful than electric stoves and I guess it's not a good thing to walk away from your apartment and leave something on the stove unattended. I am - or at least I was - like a walking ad for fire prevention.

Now, however, to the amazement of myself, my friends and my family I have become quite a good cook. I admit when I first started cooking it was out of frustration at not being able to find any of my favorite foods even at the western restaurants here in Korea. At first when I would cook I would call up my mom or my friend "Ray" and ask them "If you were making curry rice [or whatever] what would you do?" Then I started to experiment on my own and of course having an internet connection helps, too. If I get stuck I Google the name of whatever I am trying to make and voila up pops a recipe.

I still get frustrated with the lack of spices available in Korea. There are two aisles at the supermarket devoted to red pepper paste but I dare you to try and find cumin or cilantro or even garlic powder.

A picture I took of all the red pepper paste at the supermarket.

In desperation to find some ingredients to cook my favorite foods I turned to the black market and Texas Street. In Busan, Texas Street is located directly across from the Busan train station and it is infamous for being a bar area with lots of Russian and a number of Filipino juicy girls. But it also sells long distance telephone cards, stick deodorant, North American brands of toothpaste and some canned specialty foods.

This is a picture of Texas Street I took during the daytime.

I took this close-up picture of a lantern on Texas Street.

This is Texas Street at night.

As I mentioned there is a large Russian population that works and frequents the Texas Street area. A lot of the signs are in Russian.

Many of the bars and cafes are named for American places. This maybe because they want to appeal to the American soldiers [before Camp Hialeah the American Military Base in Busan was closed just this summer] and to American sailors when the Navy ships are in port. This restaurant is where I buy my long distance telephone cards and also they serve the best lumpia [Filipino egg rolls] ever.

I am able to buy canned corned beef on Texas Street.

I even find a full-size jar of North American Cheez Whiz [Australian Cheez Whiz is white in color as is their cheddar cheese]. With this I can made toasted cheese, bacon and tomato sandwiches and homemade macaroni and cheese, ummm!

Here's the corned beef hash I made with my can of corned beef. [I cut up sweet pickles - they come when you order pizza in Korea since Koreans eat pickles with their pizza - and added them to the potatoes and onions to give it a little more flavor. It was delicious, if I do say so myself.

I got the New Hawaii Restaurant to sell me some lumpia that has uncooked so I could cook it myself at home later. I even found a sweet spring roll sauce at Mega Mart to serve with it.


My success with these cooking ventures lead me to explore even more and expand my repertoire of dishes. My neighbour last year, Mrs. Lee, served me lotus root in a sweet light corn syrup sauce for dessert once and it was divine. I decided to try my luck at making something similar.

First I found and bought the lotus root and the light corn syrup.

Then I steamed the lotus root until it was tender. Then I put it in a plastic container and poured some of the syrup over it and let it set over night in the fridge. I was really exotic and quite refreshing. It certainly wasn't anything I would have even eaten if I'd stayed in Eastern Canada. I quite like it.


I visited Costco in Daegu a couple of months ago and when I was there I got some spices. But I found myself cooking more and thus in need of more spices. It is just too hard for me - as a new cook - to try and substitute spices [ones I can find for ones I can't]. In desperation I turned to an internet website. On pusanweb I had read about this website called Costcoplaza and although it is entirely in Korean it doesn't require a Korean ID number to join or a Korean credit card to purchase items. You use your e-mail [and yes they even accept hotmail] and set up an ID and an account and then you place your order. It gives you the total price and you go to the bank and deposit the money into the bank account number they give you on the site. It's actually pretty easy. I had a Korean friend help me set up the account and make the order but I think I could do it myself now if I had to. They have lots of spices including cumin, fajita seasoning, Cajun seasoning, dill weed and coriander leaf. To browse the items available if you don't read Korean just click on the first link on the left of the page. It says 식 품 [shik pum]. Here's the link to the website.

Three days after placing my order my spices had arrived. They are big bottles, too, 85 grams.

Also, I ordered Starbucks House Blend of coffee and Jelly Belly jelly beans. I am happy, happy, happy. :)

I found another internet website where I can order sour cream, icing sugar, canned pie fillings and all the other goodies I can't find anywhere else in the stores here. However, like most Korean websites, it requires a Korean ID number to join and since I don't have one and my Alien Card Registration [ARC] number doesn't work I am dependant on my Korean friends to order things I want from this site for me. Here's the link to the site. If you can't read Korean but are interested in the products they have click on the link [it opens a new window] and click on the icon that looks like a toaster located about 5-6 inches down on the left hand side of the screen. This shows all the products.

I am now even the proud owner of a Cuckoo rice cooker. I make a great curry rice and some wicked stir fries. Who would have thought even a few years ago that not only would I learn to cook but that I would actually be so proud of this skill that I'd be writing about it on my blog? Not me - that's for sure!

My Cuckoo rice cooker. I love it. I don't think I ever want to live without a rice cooker again - not even if I ever move back to North America someday.

One of the reasons I am not afraid to try cooking here and now is that I know that if all else fails I can order a mean pepperoni pizza.