Friday, August 22, 2014

Healthcare Adventure

I'll avoid the gritty details, but if you don't care to read about others' healthcare experiences, then feel free to pass over this post. I've heard from several people that they would be fascinated to hear about a Korean healthcare experience, so I've chosen to share a bit here. Read more below...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

And...we're back

After an unintended hiatus of a couple months we're back to the blogosphere. To account for our absence, we have a whole load of cell phone photos documenting a few of the more fun moments of our summer thus far.

We attended a soccer game at the local stadium with a few friends. The most remarkable part of the experience was not the actual playing, but the fact that an entire section of the stadium was made up of fervent Pohang fans who sang, drummed, and chanted for the duration of the game. Impressive.

Caleb received his first Korean haircut. I was really pushing for the mushroom style from the book we were shown, but he refused.

During the month of June, I filled in for a kindergarten teacher at another school branch. It was exhausting, certainly, but those mischievous little urchins won my heart in the end.  Below are a few of them.
 Picnics in the park. Enough said.

There is a bowling alley a couple blocks from our apartment. Koreans take bowling very seriously and the environment is totally different than those in the U.S. It is a fun, cheap evening though, and one night I miraculously scored 139, about 60 points higher than my usual average. Proof below.

As expected, Korean baseball games also have a different feel than those in America. Attendees are allowed to bring in as much food as they can carry, so we saw people snacking on everything from Krispy Kreme donuts to entire pizzas to ramen noodles. Similar to the soccer game, an entire section of the stadium was comprised of chanting fans that never ceased. In the end, we were disappointed with the quality of baseball playing, (final score: 15-3) but it was fun to experience the American pastime in a new setting.

This photo is entitled, "Caleb the Art Thief."
If you look closely, you can see a painting in his left hand. One of our favorite "games" is to scout the trash people put out on the streets. Our most recent prize is a cheap but sturdily framed Modigliani print. We've both been amazed at how nice it is to have in our space. We're surrounded by rectangular concrete buildings with only occasional exposure to art, and weren't aware of how starved we are for beauty.

Beach afternoon. We don't spend much time on this beach because just out of frame, to the right, is an enormous steel factory jutting into the sea. The threat of pollution is ever-present. But apart from the sand fleas, it did make for a pleasant afternoon.

Over and out.

Friday, May 9, 2014


This last weekend was a luxurious four days long thanks to Children's Day (a Korean holiday honoring children) and Buddha's Birthday falling on a consecutive Monday and Tuesday. We had been wanting to make it up to Bogyeongsa, a temple and string of waterfalls north of Pohang, for quite a while and the extended weekend was the perfect opportunity. There is a bus that regularly makes the trip, but is quite a long ride. Instead, we were able to ride along with some friends who have a car and made a lovely afternoon of it. (Thanks, Sean and Kristina!)

We visited on Buddha's birthday so there was quite a crowd of people around the temple area. We made a beeline for the trail, and soon after veered from the walkway to freestyle it in the riverbed. This was probably the best decision we could have made because we had the river and the rocks to ourselves most of the time, rather than sharing the narrow trails. 

There are twelve waterfalls along this portion of the river, some larger than others. We had a great time climbing up the waterfalls, hopping rocks, and dreaming of summer days when it will be warm enough to plunge head-first into the water.

Behind Caleb is the bridge the leads to a view of the largest waterfall.

There is a guardrail that halfheartedly keeps visitors from climbing nearer the falls. Of course, we ignored it.

On our way back down the trail.

We had a gorgeous day and can't wait to go back!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rain and Stuffed Animals

It's been a while since we've updated, though not too much has been going on around here. We're continuing to adjust to the little things that are different here in Korea. We've gradually widened our cooking repertoire in our oven and microwave free kitchen, explored more and more parts of the city, and are feeling more and more at home.

It has been a beautiful spring, though we are occasionally bothered by something called "yellow dust." This dust falls from the sky, coating cars, streets, and the floors near open windows with a fine yellow coating. We've read that the dust is a combination of pollen, sand blown over from the Gobi desert, and pollutants from factories in China. On bad days, it feels oppressive and the air is hazy. Thankfully, we had a solid three days of rain last week that seemed to settle the dust and clear the air.

Caleb has a great rain jacket that keeps out the rain during our walks to work, but I don't have a good hooded rain coat. Instead, I just borrow the detachable hood from my winter coat and pair it with my lightweight spring jacket, amusing Caleb to no end. He insisted on taking my photo...
By the way, this photo shows that street directly outside our apartment building. There are quite a few other foreigners that live in the building right across the street, and we have just about every convenience we need within a ten minute walk. 

The photo below was taken in a restaurant a couple blocks from our apartment. For some reason they have several huge stuffed animals displayed throughout the dining room that captured Caleb's precious.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gyeongju II: Cherry Blossoms

About a week and a half ago, we went to Gyeongju for a second time. A cherry blossom festival is held there every year and we've heard from many people that it is THE PLACE to see the blooms. We chose to go a week before the festival in an effort to avoid some of the crowds and are fairly certain that we caught the blossoms in their prime. The afternoon was perfectly warm and sunny, and I (Dori) was happy to notice a tinge of pink on my nose the next day...bring on that summer tan!

There were so many people flying kites...quite a sight.

We happened upon the end of a drum demonstration and the beginning of a parade that carried on for several hours throughout the hillside. There were many people dressed up in traditional garb, though we were unable to determine who exactly they were supposed to be. It was fun to imagine what the valley might have looked like filled with its original citizens.

This entire field was planted with yellow "wildflowers." It was a pretty scene, to be sure, but it was amusing to watch so many people trying to take get a photo that looked like they were alone in a vast field of flowers. In this country, taking posed photos is serious business and there is no shame in acting the part of tourist...everyone does it!

More of the parade...we caught them again as they were marching down the hill.

I shouted at him, "Frolick!" and this is what we got.

We tried to take a nice photo together, but somehow we always fail.


From what we could tell, this is an archaeological dig, in process. We couldn't get very close, but it is exciting to think about what could still be buried there!

I was mostly taking photos with my film camera that day so Caleb manned the cell phone camera. Unfortunately, that means fewer photos of him and more of me.

This river was absolutely gorgeous. We had a bit of a laugh because there were several groups of Korean tourists on the other side of the river watching us prance around on the rocks and dip our toes in the water. The rocks didn't extend all the way across so they weren't able to do the same, and we felt a bit like caged animals putting on a show. Then again, that's how we feel quite often, even if we're just trying to operate chopsticks. We had good fun, nonetheless:)

The sign reads, "This is Silla flower garden where loving couples come from around the world." Of course, we had to make an ironic statement.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cat Cafe

We had heard that there were such things as "cat cafes" here in Korea soon after we arrived. Excited by the prospect, though doubtful that one existed  in our city, we looked forward to a chance to hang out with cats while drinking americanos.

We were wandering the downtown area this last Saturday and stumbled upon a cute little cafe called 1944...with cats peering at us from the windows!

I (Dori) was having a melancholy day but these guys provided a much needed pick-me-up. There is just something about petting and holding an animal that makes one feel at peace.

The chair was a bit ragged but Caleb said it was incredibly comfortable. The cat below didn't have much interest in us and seemed a bit upset that we had lifted her off her seat.
We spent a lovely hour with these guys and will definitely be returning.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Afternoon in Gyeongju

This post is very late in coming, but we wanted to take the time to get a few historical facts straight before posting it. About three weeks ago, a couple fellow foreign teachers invited us to join them on a trip to Gyeongju, a city south of  Pohang. We weren't sure what to expect, but were excited to get out of town for an afternoon. Before we came to Korea, Caleb had heard that there was an archaeological dig close to Pohang and we had kept it in the back of our minds that we'd like to find it eventually. We were excited to find out that the dig and many other historical sites were in Gyeongju.

One of the great things about Korea is the relative ease of travel travel throughout the country. To get to Gyeongju we simply bought a ticket for about $2.50 at the bus terminal, hopped on board, and were in a different city in about thirty minutes. I suppose this is how it works just about anywhere, but we were both surprised by how truly easy it was. 

The city of Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom (57B-935AD). All throughout the city are vast parks that are dotted with mounds which contain the tombs of various Kings and other noblemen and women. The photos below are not great quality (cell phone photos) and don't show the absolute beauty of the spaces. The abruptness of the tombs were eery and awe-inspiring at the same time. Everywhere we looked was beautiful, despite the yellowed grass and bare trees of winter. We have been told by many people that Gyeongju is THE PLACE to go to see the cherry tree blossoms and plan to go back in a couple weeks. 

Below is a photo from a part of town that has been built up in supposedly historically accurate style. There were little temples and spaces for meditation dotted throughout the little village.

As best we could figure, the rectangular raised area in the foreground represents the footprints of buildings that have been excavated. We found many of these raised areas all over the parks.

Below is the Cheomseongdae Observatory that was used for astronomical observations. It is the oldest surviving observatory in East Asia and dates to the 7th century.

Below is the courtyard area of the museums. There are several museums of art and history. We only had time to peek our heads into one of them before they closed.

This is the Bell of King Seongdeok and was cast in bronze in 771AD. It was massive!

Never miss a chance to break the rules! Staff only down the bamboo tunnel.

Below is Anapji Pond, a man-made pond created in 674AD as part of a palace complex. It has three islands and was used as a place to grow and raise plants and animals. We arrived at dusk, just as they lit the spotlights dotted throughout the woods.
Looking across the pond at a re-creation of the Eastern palace, which was used as a place to hold celebrations.

By the time we left the palace, we were quite famished after an afternoon of walking. We found a "traditional Korean food" restaurant on the walk back to the bus terminal and decided to give it a try. In Korean homes and many sit-down restaurants, it is expected that guests remove their shoes at the door, as was the case at this restaurant. The tables are also low to the ground and guests sit on the floor. Korean meals are almost always comprised of multiple small side dishes, dipping sauces, soups, and meats. Below is a photo of our meal for four.
Up until this day, we had had almost entirely positive experiences with Korean food. However, we soon realized that the end of a long, tiring day is not the best time to try suspicious-appearing foods. We were hungry and craving comfort food. Instead, we ate mini-crabs coated in a red, spicy sauce, crayfish soup, (maybe) oysters in red, spciy sauce, and anchovies as condiments.
In general, both of us try most things at least once. We were able to swallow our respective whole crabs, though neither of us were willing to spring for a second.

Despite some indigestion over the days after, it was all-in-all a good day. We'll definitely be returning when the cherry trees are in bloom.