Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ji-Ae and Anthony's New Apartment

During the warmer months, a lot of the teaching community here will flock to the beach areas on weekends. When winter approaches, this slows down and night traffic turns back toward the inner city regions such as the Kyungsung, PNU and Seomyeon areas. These days I rarely go out during the week, but like to spend the weekends out somewhere.

Here's the Gwangan bridge at night, which is always lit up until past midnight. It actually has two levels on it for traffic flowing in opposite directions. Anthony just moved into an apartment near here, so we'll return to this area of the city shortly.

Here are some creative English teachers forming a human structure on the beach. They tried to get a person on the third level but appeared to be lacking the gymnastical expertise. If there is such a term. The bar we were drinking at is approximately 50 metres from this site.

A little while ago, I went with Heather's family to a temple out of town. Most temples in Korea are very similar, but this one is a little different.

This statue guards the entrance with his groove. The idea of statues like this is that they are supposed to intimidate bad spirits away from the temple. I wish I had a stomach like that.

Amongst the greenery were other stone carvings which were quite nice. On tops of mountains and things here, you can find a lot of piles of rocks that have been placed by people. I recently found out that such rock-piles are called cairns - in English, and dolmudogi in Korean. There's a city in Australia called Cairns.

I wonder if they have any cairns there.

One of the famous stone pagodas. The top spire is typical of buddhist imagery and has even been incorporated into the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. Spires symbolise the aspirations of man to reach higher states.

I saw a documentary on Discovery channel, you see.

Here's Heather and her father snapping some photos. Heather's father is pretty nice and tries to talk to me from time to time. I used to understand around 5% of what he says, but now I understand around 15%. When he smiles and asks a questions, I smile and say yes.

Under the hands of the statue was a wasp, oblivious to our clamouring and busy building a nest. I guess we're not the only ones just trying to get by in the world.

Rubbing the belly of happy stone buddhas is supposed to bring good luck. Sometimes I rub my own tummy these days because it's gotten a lot bigger than I remember. I've put on around 5 kilos since coming to Korea.

And it's also good luck if you pour water over this buddha. I don't believe in any of that stuff, but I still poured water over him. Because you know... well, you never know.

Ji-Ae is Heather's four year old niece who can generally be found running around and being adorable. She used to avoid me when I first met her, but now she talks to me a lot. In Korean, of course. We can actually have moderately long conversations with each other.

She says that I talk funny.

"Lee-shee samcheon, don isseo!"

"Cousin Lee, I have money!"

She's very active and is always trying to get people to play games with her. In this photo, she was trying to get the camera from me.

Here we are in the car. Ji-ye took this photo of us with her outstretched hand. Pretty good for a four year old, eh?

But this was her first attempt. I taught her the importance of keeping a certain distance from the camera. Maybe one day she'll be a great photographer.

And here are her subsequent photos of Heather and me on the same car trip. Every time I make a face like this, Ji-Ae giggles. So I often find myself doing them a lot.

After that we went to a nice restaurant in the area called Mulle-Banga, which means 'Water Wheel'.

The place was pretty packed and specialised in samgyetang and agujjim (ginseng chicken and fish stew). The food was excellent and the fish was fresh from the river.

Unfortunately I didn't get to take any photos of the food, because Ji-Ae took a liking to my camera. After taking a lot of photos, she somehow discovered the time-delay function with flash. She would sit the camera on the table, press the button and wait for the excitement of being blinded. So after around a hundred of these photos, the camera battery went dead. Apart from the food though, there wasn't much else to take photos of that day.

On the right of this photo is Amy, who works for Geoje April (one of our schools in the centre of the city). This scene was from her recent house warming party. Amy's boyfriend, Ian, was actually a reader of this blog prior to this gathering, which was the first time we met. It's nice to know that there are people out there who read it.

Our apartment is a popular drop-in centre for teachers in the area. That's because we're fairly centrally located and have ready access to beer. Sometimes we play poker and eat chicken, other times we sit and talk about games like Dota.

Which happens to be a very cool game.

Anthony was living with us for a few weeks while his new place was getting lined up. He recently moved in and the wait was worth it. His apartment is right next to the water at Gwangali beach, one of the most popular locations in the city.

Heather's old high school friend helped him move. He doesn't speak any English but has helped us before with his very handy mini-truck. It's good to know Koreans in Korea.

Anthony was pretty excited on the day that he moved in. Here's a video of him and us on the first day.

Here's Heather and Anthony discussing the pressing issues of the world. We had a mini house-warming party that night, which consisted of OB Beer (which they don't sell in Seomyeon for some reason) and onion chips.

And this is the view out of Anthony's window, showing Gwangali bridge. It's more impressive during the day. We'll return here for some day-time shots in the next blog post.

Anthony is very enthusiastic about things in general and likes to exercise constantly. His apartment is right on the beach, allowing him to run around on the sand in the morning and do Anthony-type things. He bought a surfboard here a while ago and it broke, so he bought a new one on the same day. "This one is unbreakable!" he told me when he showed me. Why didn't he just buy an unbreakable one to begin with?

Only Anthony would know.

See you next time!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food, Drinks and Mr Segway

I was talking to Polish Damien in Australia today and he told me that on my blog "It pretty much looks like all I do is eat, party and travel." I think that's the first ever blog critique I've had from a Polish guy. Muchly appreciated. It's his 27th birthday today and I'm sure he'll be celebrating in style with the guys back home. Happy Birthday Damien!

In this photo is an U-dong hotpot with stuffed pockets of aerated soybean and various other goodies. On the right is some sundried chilli cashew chicken. We chose to enjoy this particular meal with some apple and kiwi soju cocktails.

Some time ago, a group of adoptees came down to Busan for a quick tour and we met up after work for some drinks. I'm pretty much the only GOA'L affiliated adoptee down here, so I feel like an ambassador of sorts.

Here's a new drinking game that Eric taught us that night. Two lines of people are on either side of the tables. Each person in turn (one after the other) has to drink the beer from their own paper cup and then put it on the edge of the table. The next person can only start drinking once the previous person has flipped the cup so that it lands properly on the table. The first line to finish wins.

We played this game a few times.

I led the group to the U2 bar in Haeundae, somewhere I hadn't been in a while. U2 is fairly nice and they serve free popcorn. The owner speaks a fair bit of English and likes to drink tequila shots.

One of the European adoptees decided it would be a good idea if we all took our shoes off and danced. Mine are the brown ones in the centre.

Then Eric thought it would be a good idea if we all went for a swim at the beach at 2am. I wasn't particularly in the mood for it, but was eventually persuaded. Catching the taxi back home with wet pants in the wee hours of the morning was an interesting experience.

I also lost my old cell phone at some point that night.

Meet Lee's new and improved cell phone. It has a DMB connection, which means I can watch free television broadcasts on a few different channels. On the screen in this photo there's a Beijing Olympics replay of Park Tae-Hwan winning the 400m.

Soon after the other adoptees left, Marie Fleur, another French adoptee from Seoul came down for a visit. I didn't have much time to show her around because of work commitments. We had a walk around Gwangan and visited this live seafood shop. That's her on the right, with her sister and sister's husband. Live seafood still impresses me to some degree and it's funny to see how the little Korean kids can just pick up an octopus like it's a toy.

Heather and I are going fairly well these days. My only regular teaching duties during the week are on Friday nights, when I head to her branch to teach an upper level reading class. That means I also get to join in their Friday night hwe-shiks (after-work dinners).

Here are the admin staff of the Hwamyeong branch. Heather received a promotion yesterday to the title of wonjang, which is the branch manager. We've both come a long way since our humble beginnings at the old Busanjin branch in 2006.

Near our house there's a small unstaffed amusement outlet. In this photo, you can see two versions of the ubiquitous punching machines here. You put in a coin and get to see how hard you can punch. You also find out how easy it is to sprain your wrist by trying to impress your friends.

Here's Anthony, one of our new additions, in the batting cages. These were entirely coin-operated as well. You just pick up the bat and a machine will launch baseballs at you.

Have you seen the new Star Wars release? It's an animation based on Attack of the Clones. I've always been a big fan of Star Wars and Star Trek, but unfortunately showing an enthusiasm for such things here results in one being labelled a nerd. Jef's definition of a nerd is when someone owns a twelve-sided die (singular: dice). But I don't own one of those.


Heather and I found a new favourite restaurant. It's called Van Gogh's Terrace and it's in the Haeundae area near the APEC building. They specialise in particularly good Italian food and French champagne. It's right next to the water and you can see the Gwangan bridge at night. We go down here sometimes for a treat and are developing a worrying affinity for Moet & Chandon.

Most days on the way to work, Mr Segway (as I like to call him) crosses the main road at the same time as me. He's usually crossing at exactly the same time each day. This is the only Segway I've seen in Korea. He seems to like it when people look at him and ask him questions about his device while he's waiting for the lights.

These days I work in the office at our company's headquarters in Dongnae. That's my seat right there in the middle. Next to me is Brandon Na, the human resources director and in this photo he's interviewing someone via Skype. My work duties include interviewing new teachers from overseas, guiding them in and general HR related troubleshooting. I also look after the April English program to some degree.

Here's the CEO's office. We only moved in here a couple of month's ago.

And here's our dear Kelly Park, who left the company last week for greener pastures. She's been working for us since the beginning and would often be found running around to the different branches or the immigration department. She was really good at fixing problems and watering plants. A few weeks before she left, she found a snail on her lettuce and brought it into the office in a plastic cup. Then the cleaning lady threw it away because she thought it was rubbish. Oh well.

The snail had eggs though, which we kept in a different cup. Hopefully they'll hatch sometime soon.

That's all for this time. See you!