Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nanoomi Party!

Nanoomi is a community of writers, translators and Korea-enthusiasts who have come together to share with the world, the deep and diverse ecology of the Korean blogosphere. I first learned of Nanoomi's existence through Roboseyo, who had a nice little affiliation badge in his sidebar. Upon further investigation, I decided to sign up and start posting on their website. There's an interesting cross section of the K-blogging community there, posting on various aspects of life in Korea.

To promote Nanoomi's launch, a party is being held in Hongdae next weekend. There will be some light food (including Korean tacos!), drinks, music and short presentations from some of the bloggers.

When: Saturday, Nov. 6, 6:30-10 p.m
Presentations from 7-8 p.m. Photo/Video Slideshow, Music, Light Refreshments, Party 8-10 p.m.
Where: Sonofactory (
Taeseong Building, 1st floor, 204-54 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Near Hongik University Station, line 2, exit 1
Phone: 070-8224-8976
Cost: 10,000 won (Pay at the door)
Nanoomi is the first site to bridge the Korean and English blogospheres, supported by a Korean media-tech venture, Tatter & Media, which is funneling efforts into highlighting English-language blogs in Korea.

In the past, Tatter & Media (, which claims over 200 of Korea’s top power bloggers as its partners, had focused exclusively on Korean-language content. But, in response to linguistic isolation on the Internet, in which people who speak a language interact only with each other online, Tatter is helping to give expat bloggers an opportunity to reach a Korean audience. This is happening not only through the site, but also with podcasts and Android apps that are in the works.

Nanoomi is a 'bridge blog' with writers who span the language divide with their content. For example, among Nanoomi’s 25+ bloggers:
  • Joe McPherson (ZenKimchi) and Jennifer (FatManSeoul) tell the world about Korean food, while also offering the Korean government and companies suggestions on how to market their food overseas.
  • Robert Koehler (The Marmot’s Hole) and Matt VanVolkenburg (Gusts of Popular Feeling) provide English-language readers translations of Korean news, document the country’s urban development and offer historical perspective on current issues.
  • Darcy Paquet and Tom Giammarco ( open up Korean cinema to a global audience.
  • Simon and Martina Stawski (Eat Your Kimchi) provide a fun look into Korean life and pop culture through their entertaining videos.
You're all free to invite anyone who would be interested in this event. If you have any questions, you can contact Cynthia Yoo, Nanoomi’s founding editor ( or Hannah Bae, Head Editor (; or even Hyeon Chol Yang (

See you there on the 6th!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Statistically Probable Thought #3: Rock Erosion Theory

If you understand evolutionary biology in its infinitely indifferent glory, a few interesting ideas emerge. The ambient musician Moby once said "we are all made of stars," and in a way, the statement couldn't be more correct. The Big Bang flung dense burning matter toward every corner(?) of the known universe some 13.8 billion years ago, expanding spacetime in the process. All tangible matter that we sit on, sleep on and brush our teeth with, has its roots in that single heated event. If you talk about the age of your body, you're referring to its current arrangement of molecules. But the atoms themselves were created in the centres of stars, which all trace their history to the beginning of existence.

Fast forward now to the birth of our solar system. Actually, first hold on for a moment while we ponder something interesting. Isn't imagination amazing? If you stretch your imagination from the moment of the Big Bang to the beginnings of our solar system, which is but a speck in a galaxy in a universe of billions of galaxies, your imagination has just traveled through 9 billion years of history. If your imagination took three seconds to do that (and ended at the very edges of the known universe), then because speed =distance/time, the speed of your imagination in kilometres per second would be 9 billion years multiplied by the speed of light, divided by three seconds. Remember to convert the 9 billion years into seconds first. The equation would be 9,000,000,000 X 31,536,000 (seconds in a year) X 299,792 (speed of light in km per sec) divided by 3. Now this may be a trivial observation, but it's remarkably fast. Granted, your imagination probably skipped a few details along its epic journey. Hmm, now if only I could finish my PhD at the speed of imagination.

Anyway, your mental bookmark should now be at the beginning of our solar system. Imagine a giant molecular cloud of gas and dust floating in the darkness of space. This enormous cloud would eventually give birth to several stars, including our own Sun. Gravitational compression occurs after a shockwave event passes through the cloud, almost certainly from a distant supernova. This causes the angular momentum of our patch of dust to increase, while the dust itself condenses and gains rotational speed. Gravity's influence then gets to work on the details, collecting 99.8632% of the entire mass of the cloud into the centre of a rotating sphere. The large blob in the centre eventually passes a critical mass, and the sheer weight of gravity causes ignition in the centre and an explosion of fusion energy. This blob has just become our Sun. But angular momentum manages to keep some of the matter spinning in orbit around the Sun, and these patches of dust eventually collect into smaller blobs themselves, and harden in their centres. These outliers are destined to become the planets of our solar system and their moons.

Now there are only two kinds of planets we need to think about here, seeing as poor old Pluto was recently demoted. There are the terrestrial, or 'rock' planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars), and the gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune). The gas giants are huge bundles of clouds, gas and lightning, at the centre of which is a much smaller sphere of extremely condensed metal. For example, if you were standing on Jupiter, you would actually be standing on an extremely flat land of metal, with supersonic winds and high levels of radiation. You would also be dead. Luckily our imagination gets around such inconveniences by not actually putting us there in the first place. Fantasy has its dangers.

For the purposes of this blog post, we will not focus on the gas giants, which are unlikely to harbour any life. And the purpose of this post is to talk about how life possibly began and what it is now, in a purely scientific sense. So we're going to leave the gas giants alone now, and focus on the terrestrial planets, particularly the Earth. 
In the beginning, the Earth was a very inhospitable place with a lot of volcanic activity and minimal atmosphere. But all magma eventually cools into rock. In the process, the magma releases dissolved gases into the atmosphere. A planet like Mercury, which is lifeless (as far as we know), is basically a large rock, with bits of broken rock on the surface.

But things are happening on Mercury. It's not the same as it was a few thousand years ago. That's because the radiation from the sun, as well as surface winds are eroding the surface. Rocks on the surface are slowly eroding away, due to the forces of nature. The process of rock erosion is not much of a change, but a change nonetheless.

On a lifeless Earth, and for all terrestrial planets without life, this ongoing erosion of rock is the only process that can cause change. The driving forces are wind, oxidation and radiation from the sun. And there's also meteorite impact, which is another very important phenomena.

As far as the vast majority of real scientists are concerned, life on Earth probably began soon after the formation of an atmosphere and water on the surface. Because water ice in space is invariably laced with impurities, it is always classified as a rock rather than a mineral. So we can think of water as melted rock on the surface of a rocky Earth. And you may also like to think of sand as small, tiny rocks, if you like. I certainly do.

So the Earth, once upon a time, was just a lot of different kinds of rock and no life. At this historical point in time, the Earth gets peppered with comets, which are themselves also rocks. But these are special rocks. Traveling through space as stone and dirty ice, they also contain amino acids dissolved in their centres. Amino acids are the building blocks for all bacterial, archaea, protist, plant, fungi and animal life.

So the comets brought amino acids and other chemical goodies that were dissolved within them, crashing into the Earth's warm oceans, heated by the Sun in the day and cooling off at night. At some point in time during millions of years of oceans with chemicals being warmed and cooled, the very first simple forms of life grew from a chance collision that was statistically likely to happen over such a long time. If there really is a deity that deserves worship, it would be Time itself. Its sheer magnitude and vastness eclipse the majority of other claimed miracles. The parting of oceans is but child's play, when one considers that the entire history of the existence of those oceans, is, for want of a better analogy, but an infinitesimal drop in the galactic ocean of time.

What we know is that phospholipids (chemical molecules containing phosphorus), can also spontaneously form micelles in warm water. Micelles are tiny microscopic bubbles that protect whatever is contained inside, from the outside. This is the concept of homeostasis, a prerequisite for all living organisms. And if you look at the tiny membranes of bacteria, you'll notice that they're made predominantly from phospholipids. Albeit, a little more complex nowadays. Could it be that all chemical life began from non-life? Lee's Korea Blog would like to politely put forth the notion here that unless you're worshipping a deity other than Time, it's the only likely conclusion that remains.

The beginnings of primitive life was just small simple molecular bubbles that doubled their numbers over time. Some bubbles began to collect interesting chemical bi-products in their centres, which became the essence of the cytoplasm. From this, constant trial-and-error over billions of generations formed more complex organisms. How did we Homo sapiens arise out of all this? Well, the fossil record shows that Neanderthals first emerged around 600,000 years ago. And it took 400,000 of those years for us to evolve from the common ancestor of the Neanderthal to anatomically modern humans. We achieved behavioural modernity around 50,000 years ago. In other words, we monkeys have been behaving in human-like ways for only 1/100,000th of the Earth's history. On the other hand, very simple, single-celled life has been here for more than 3/4 of the Earth's history.

But let's take a step back now and think about how this all started. There was the Earth, which was rock, and water on the surface, which is melted rock. These rocks were being changed by the processes of erosion. Then some meteorites (which are also rocks), which were floating around in space,  happened to collide with the Earth. This released their amino acids and phosphorus into our warm oceans. These chemicals eventually formed tiny micelles, which later became life. In a nutshell, the universe is made up of a whole bunch of very hot and cold rocks.

So my point is, you and I are simply a curious part of the larger process of rock erosion. This process has been going on for countless centuries and will no doubt continue to do so for centuries more.

But you can comfort yourself in the idea that we're all made of stars.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Energizer Night Race 2010

When I was a boy, our old man used to take us out jogging. Along with other compulsory components of being a Farrand, which included weeding the garden, learning German and picking up the dog poop, jogging was invariably un-looked-forward to in our younger years.
Kids being kids, we had overflowing energy for everything, except anything that was good for us.

In a classic parental see-I-told-you-so revelation I've had in my later years, I've become pretty sure that long distance running in my youth had lasting benefits. Such benefits include an affinity towards exercise in general, a true appreciation for the simple ecstasy of rest and the realization that in life, you shouldn't give up just because it's convenient to do so.

These days I find myself lacking free time for anything that hasn't been signed up and paid for, so luckily Heather did just that for the Energizer Night Race at Seoul Children's Park. In the photo above is Jang-Ho and me, suited up in our complimentary disposable raincoats before the 10km run.

Some bright spark on the Board of Ideas in the Night Race Organising Taskforce evidently thought it appropriate to energise the audience with a dance team.

Despite the 5mW green lasers, artificial smoke, searchlights and loud thumping music, Korea collectively responded by staring quietly at the concert in disposable raincoats, before hesitantly clapping at the end of the ordeal.

Having just watched Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas for the first time last night, I think that Korea would evolve considerably from a substance-inspired passive social rebellion against the forces of old. But what I think is good for Korea and what the Koreans think is good, are two quite different matters.

We met up with Kish, who is currently traveling the world via legs and backpack. He in turn brought along his friend Ji-Eun, who he met in Seville a couple of months ago. Kish is a fascinating guy, and one of the only people I've known who is genuinely forlorn about not being able to visit Burma.

The race started without much ado, and off we galloped into the drizzling darkness of the park. Ten minutes into the race, with rain intensifying and thighs burning, something deep inside me wondered why I had agreed to partake in such madness. And then my other self-conversational half replied that it was to remind myself the life lesson that we shouldn't give up on something just because it's convenient to do so.

In the end, I finished the race with a time of 52:57, which wasn't bad by my standards. But Jang-Ho beat me to the finish line by 12 seconds. I came home exhausted, and defeated in the way that only comes with being defeated by a younger family member.

But ego restoration is due this coming weekend, at the Nike 'We Run Seoul' event.

This is a progress diary that our maternity clinic gave us. Contained within are our ultrasound photos and various other morsels of information.

In the middle photo is our gynaecologist, Dr Kim. She's quite friendly to us and Heather likes her. In the photo on the right is a male gynaecologist. Heather tells me that males in this particular profession are generally avoided by Korean clients due to the sensitivity of the issues at hand. My personal suggestion is that if he had a nice big smile like our doctor, clients may be more forthcoming. 

But I guess a male gynaecologist needs to be careful about not overdoing any kind of facial expression in their profile pic.

The small mass in Heather's kidney-shaped womb is our little bundle of wonder. Dr Kim advised us to think of a name to refer to it by. The name had to be whimsical, and neither male nor female. After a lot of suggestions of mine that Heather didn't like, we settled on the name '빅뱅이' (big baengy). It comes from the TV show that we both enjoy, and from my perspective, represents such a tiny singularity having enormous future repercussions.

One thing I didn't know was that fetal heart rate is much faster than you'd expect. Ian's sister, Una Kim, told me last night that your heartbeat in life starts very fast, and then slows down over the rest of your life. I found that to be a very interesting thing. 빅뱅이's heart is currently belting away at 129bpm. 

I think 빅뱅이 is going to turn out to be a hardcore techno fan. That's great news for me.

And here's the Lee's Korea Blog 'mother-to-be' of-the-year award winner, Heather, making 소고기 kimbap for us.
Kimbap is the quintessential Korean pseudomeal, aesthetically pleasing and nutritionally adequate. 99% of our yearly kimbap intake is via kimbap cheonguk, with the remainder manufactured by Mrs Farrand in the comfort and relative inconvenience of our own kitchen.

This is the finished product, which we consumed with egg-drop soup. The shared preparation of food and it's consumption, I think, deserves more focus in the lives of today's busy cosmopolites. I for one, certainly enjoy sharing our food happenings with you all. If you're really into K-dining though, be sure to check out what's happening at Joe's site over at ZenKimchi.

Today we're off to the Hangang Park, for the We Run Seoul event. 

Will report back, post-recovery. See you soon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Shilla Hotel Seoul

A little earlier than this time last year, Heather decided that she would quite like the companionship of an occasionally charming, science-minded Korean Australian adoptee with an ambiguous sense of humour. And so we tied the knot against a backdrop of the beautiful Haeundae Beach in Busan. Now that the honeymoon is over, I've relapsed into my usual bouts of intolerable cynicism and chronic laziness. Heather survives each day by locking herself in the bathroom with a copy of Newsweek whenever I get home, and only emerges after I eventually awake in the morning and stumble in the direction of the lab, with last night's soju bottle still in hand.

Just kidding. Actually I think we've done pretty well for ourselves. We're both fairly busy, but always share breakfast together in the mornings and still enjoy shopping at the Wondang Markets on weekends. I think the secret to surviving your first year of marriage is to take it easy, don't place too many expectations on each other and put your dirty clothes in the washing machine instead of leaving them in piles on the floor, like you did in bachelor life.
Because we survived our first year without any screaming, slammed doors, fisticuffs or tears, a celebration was in order. Now I was thinking about a nice restaurant and perhaps a movie, but Heather had her sights set on The Shilla, a five-star hotel in the centre of Seoul. She, being the more financially responsible among us, controls our household finances and said we could afford the cheapest room for a night. A firm decision by the Lady of the One-Room leaves me in no position to argue.

So we made our booking and the plans were set in proverbial stone. However, fortune chose to smile upon us that night, in the form of one of my two favourite nuna, Judy Jang, who attended our wedding last year. Judy Nuna works at the Shilla Hotel concierge desk, and upgraded our room free of charge.

You know you're somewhere flash when you get a room key that looks like it opens a treasure chest.

Needless to say, we were impressed with the amenities. I was particularly taken by how spotless the carpet was, and how many different places there were, where one could sit comfortably and possibly write a novella.

Judy left this nice little note for us and a box of chocolates. At the time, the news of Heather's pregnancy had just escaped the maternity clinic.

Thank you, Judy Nuna.

That night there was a winery tour on the hotel grounds. Let me be the first to say that somebody at The Shilla really knows how to grow grass.

A trail of lanterns illuminated a stone pathway, bringing back memories of childhood fairytales from Die Brüder Grimm.

There were four wine stations hidden amongst the foliage, bubbly, red, white and rose'.

Heather, my once stalwart wine-consuming buddy, was limited to enjoying the scenery and having a sniff and the odd cautious sip from a fraction of the wines on offer. I had offered not to drink as well, but the tour was free, so she said I should make the most of it. And so I did, with a little civilized reservation. She even held an extra glass for me, so I wouldn't have to line up again.

Now that's what I call being a good sport.

The tour ended in this little pagoda, with cheese and blueberries. We enjoyed taking our shoes off and walking around on the grass, which was so spongy it felt a little like a bouncy castle.

The architecture on the hotel grounds is quite impressive and resembles what I assume would have been the residences of people who had money during the Shilla dynasty.

Although The Shilla has some enticing restaurants, we decided that splurging again would be a little too cheeky, and ventured out for some local cuisine. We found a nice jokbal restaurant nearby, and for under twenty thousand won consumed enough pork to feed a family of four.

Long ago, I once said on this blog that I really like buffet breakfasts. That turned out to be one of the main reasons that Heather set her sights on staying at The Shilla from the beginning. What did I do to deserve such a lovely wife?

Maybe this is destiny's way of letting me know that I'm going to have to change a lot of soiled nappies in the near future.

I decided to follow my Classic Buffet Strategy™, starting with salads and light appetizers to get a good feel for the journey. Wherever it is that the Shilla kitchenhands do their shopping, I'm pretty sure it's not even the famed Wondang Markets of Nakseongdae. I soon realised due to the Kalamata olives, the freshly ripened lentils and the existence of dill. These are the kinds of exotic ingredients that Kim Jong-il gets airlifted to his armoured train.

Of all the buffet breakfasts I've meandered through in my life, I would have to say that the spread at the Shilla Hotel is the gold medal winner. They have a dedicated bakery section and an array of attentive chefs whipping up all manner of astronomical gastronomy. The service was excellent too, but for me, the deal-sealer was that somewhere in the bustling backwaters of the Shilla kitchens there must be a head chef of the Cantonese section who can cook well enough to make Jackie Chan come back for thirds.

Just thinking about good Cantonese cooking makes my legs turn into Lo Mein.

Hello home-made fishballs. Hello fresh coriander. Hello green vegetable and clear soup.

It has been a while since, but I remember I could barely speak during gustation.

This is what Heather's final plate looked like. By this time we had eaten enough buffet breakfast to feed four families.

We enjoyed a morning siesta and late check-out that fine Sunday. Touring the grounds before leaving, I realised that even such memorable enjoyment would always lose its potency if continued over extended periods of time. As an adaptive species, we are doomed to an inevitable desensitisation toward every indulgence that is overdone.

But I think that being married to a lovely partner is not really an indulgence in that sense. It's more like a journey of continuous discovery kept alive by the evolving nature of companionship.

Here's to the next ten years, my dear.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beer at Family Mart

One of the more quaint aspects of life in Korea resides in an elusive variable that I call the 'ajosshi factor'. This intangible resource is difficult to characterise in any scientific sense, but basically exists through the many thousands of Korean ajosshi who call this peninsula Our Country.

The word ajosshi refers to any middle-aged man. Korean ajosshi have a reputation for occasional usefulness, public drunkenness, homogenous fashion sense and self-serving aloofness. Say you have a small wardrobe to move from the ground floor to your third floor apartment via the elevator. This seemingly straight-forward task becomes exponentially more complex if you request help from a local ajosshi (typically found standing on the side of the road, smoking cheap cigarettes). By requesting his intervention, you have just signed an unwritten contract committing yourself to the full effect of the ajosshi factor.

While helping to move your wardrobe in between frequent stops, head scratching and personal anecdotes, you can expect to be questioned extensively with queries such as:

Why are you moving this wardrobe?
To where are you moving this wardrobe?
To whom does this wardrobe belong?
Where did you say you were moving this wardrobe again?
Why did you purchase such a big wardrobe?
This wardrobe is heavy. Why did you not purchase a lighter wardrobe?

Two hours, three passively inhaled cigarettes and one cup of instant coffee later, and you'll most likely have your wardrobe somewhere in your apartment.

The other day, Patrik and I were sent on a mission by Dr Zhang, of protein chemistry fame, to meet a friend of his arriving from the airport. While Patrik and I were waiting at the bus stop for the friend who never came, we decided to eat ice-cream. Before long, down next to us besat a local ajosshi who asked with a fragrance of makkeoli "Where you are... from? Where... you are from?"

Patrik took an instant liking to him, but me, the more street-wisened among us (or so I thought), decided the most appropriate strategy would be to not feed this monkey too many bananas and hope he hops off to another tree. So I attempted to continue the recently interrupted small-talk with Patrik and politely ignore our newly acquired inquisitive macaque.

But the ajosshi was determinedly fascinated by the both of us, and on his recent drunken hiking expedition had collected botanical specimens that he insisted on showing us.

This rather humble spread is a portion of his findings, which he ended up leaving on the table upon our eventual departure. Note the drink coasters of leaf origin that he hospitably set up for us, and the inedible acorns that he surmised, 'may be edible, who knows?'

He turned out to be quite pleasant company in the end, and bought us beer and snacks while we waited.

If you look out the window, you'll notice that night had fallen by this time. We ended up spending a good four hours with our new ajosshi friend, getting a little tipsy and discussing heavy topics with a mix of hopelessly broken English and only slightly better Korean. Our combined intellect concluded that Sweden, Australia and Korea all have many similarities, and that the demise of calligraphy as an art form is a tragedy.

Late in the night, we said our farewells and said we'd meet up again, a promise we both knew we'd probably never keep.

After this chance meeting, I would have to say that the ajosshi factor is a fascinating phenomena, and should be further investigated with reckless abandon.

Here's our new campus ajosshi friend, Art Michalak, a Polish American with an interest in physics and dSLR photography. Art called us down to his flat one night and made whiskey-banana-yoghurt smoothies.

They tasted like alcoholic McDonald's thickshakes.

Art is a fellow bryology enthusiast, and has been collecting moss from around Korea to arrange in compact and aesthetically pleasing displays. This was his first attempt at a mossarium, which I pointed out was technically more of a 'moss pot' than a true mossarium. But full points for the river stones and pinecone.

I'm becoming of the opinion that everyone should have a pinecone within arm's reach at all times.

And here's Heather, presenting Table Topics at the South River Toastmasters. She brought along some movie posters and invited audience members to give mock promotions for them. Agnes did a good job of selling Kill Bill.

It went pretty well. Heather is going fine in general, but gets tired more quickly these days. She's sleeping a lot, and enjoys eating myolchi fish, honey-on-toast and ice-cream.

The three agasshis turning their heads in the photo above are Sunny, Alice and Christine. They're very lovely ladies, and enthusiastic members of the SRTM community. You should come along for one of our meetings someday.

There'll be a new post coming soon. Have a good week everyone.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Rainy Day at Caribbean Bay

One of the few welcome interruptions to weekly routine is when an old friend visits from life pre-Seoul. Living in this megacity has its benefits, but one thing that seems to be less emphasised in big city life is making and keeping good friends.

I first knew Daniel in middle school when I was 14 years old, which means that we've been friends for 50% of our lives. Our first connection was through a mutual obsession with Capcom's Streetfighter Alpha, which we used to play every Friday night, still dressed in middle school fatigues, on an overused arcade machine in Adelaide's Chinatown foodcourt. Back then, an important skill was being able to backspin a one dollar coin into the machine so that it would register as a two dollar coin. Reliable talent in this field made you a local hero for the evening.

Now, who said that video games weren't healthy for social development?

Caribbean Bay and Everland are two themeparks about an hour south of Seoul. Everland is a Disney-esque style wonderland, although a little smaller and lacking universally recognisable cartoon mascots. Caribbean Bay is a waterpark with a Pirates of the Caribbean style theme and jovially repetitive entrance music.

Originally we thought that such a rainy day would deter others from Caribbean Bay and we'd have the place to ourselves.

Unfortunately it turned out that we weren't the only ones with that idea. I guess with Seoul's population of 12 million, the statistical chance of many people having the same idea as you would be quite high.

But I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who thought up the idea of Mossarium Man, my fictional alter-ego.

We were then given the choice between a regular Outdoor Locker Room, or the suspiciously titled 'Delightful Luxurious Locker Room.' While forking out extra for an exhilarating locker room experience may be the idea of a good time for a select few, such signage tends to raise eyebrows and lower opinions from the majority of patrons.

Overcompensated corporate executives of the theme park world, take heed.

Caribbean Bay itself is a nice enough place, with well-manicured foliage. One of the many apparent contradictions in Korea is that although it probably has one of the world's highest per-capita coastlines, swimming is not a popular sport here. As such, swimming at Caribbean Bay can only be done after donning a life-jacket.

Here's my lovely wife, Heather. Let me be the first to say that she's one of the most pleasant people to travel anywhere with. People with such qualities tend to be curious, open-minded and 'on the ball,' but unruffled by setbacks such as endless rain on your day to the beach.

We spent a fair amount of time bobbing up and down in the deep end of the wavepool, suited up in our life-jackets, feet unable to touch the bottom and feeling a little like human buoys. It was nice for what it was.

The theme of the day seemed to be calm, controlled, extremely safe and overpriced fun.

That afternoon, we took our all-day all-access superpark superfun pass, or what have you, and left Caribbean Bay for Everland next door. I'd been here before, but not on a rainy day, making it all the more exciting.

I like Korea, and I like themeparks, but Everland seems to have diversified in its attractions at the expense of animal welfare. I think zoo education is an important thing, but Everland's Safari Tour wins the Lee's Korea Blog Award for most uneducational use of wild animals under an educational guise. The line-up was decorated with photos of African tribes with the odd spear and wooden mask for emphasis. Once in 'the compound' we were shuffled into tiger-striped buses continuously driving 50 metres apart into a paved area containing lethargic tigers, a single bored elephant and bears who sat by the side of the road waiting for the bus drivers to throw them Zec biscuits.

In an effort to induce maximum exposure of the animals to window-thumping kids in the well camouflaged orange tiger buses, a discrete electrified perimeter reduced the area that the animals could 'roam.'

Roam being a euphemism for sitting and staring at orange tiger buses.

Our educational experience over, we were then conveniently led through an exit which was actually a shop containing large plush toys. In today's era of commercialism, I think it's perfectly fine to make a little cash by selling mass-produced toys after an animal exhibit. But the least you could do is offer to donate a minute percentage of your profits to animal conservation.

You could even advertise your commitment to charity by placing an informational notice next to every 'Today only -20% off!' sign.

Then we went on this ride. My overpriced lunch of junk food felt like it had been put into one of those cool tupperware devices that spin the water out of lettuce.

Daniel and I enjoyed each other's company and it was a good time to catch up, so I guess it didn't really matter where we were. If you have kids under the age of 12, they'll probably go nuts at Everland. But if you're over the age of 27, refer to the expressions on our faces for guidance.

Heather, on the other hand, enjoys most things in life in general. Which is a good way to be. She even enjoys being rained on for a few hours and then getting her photo taken as payback for taking our photos while riding on a chairlift.

For the summer season, Everland has been putting on a water show with what appears to be dancing English teachers working part-time weekend jobs dressed up as fairies. The highlight of the show was the spraying of water cannons onto the crowds to refresh them from what would normally be the humid Korean summer heat.

It complemented the day's drizzling rain quite nicely.

One thing in Everland that I thought was actually rather nice, as well as the ever-waving ice cream ladies, was a showroom toward the exit with budgerigars. These amicable and brightly feathered birds flew down from perches on the walls to eat sesame seeds out of your hands. Heather was particularly amused at her self transformation into a statuesque bird seed dispenser.

If you have kids and don't mind waiting in lines, then Caribbean Bay and Everland are suitable places to relieve you of your hard-earned cash. But if you're looking for something nice to do with a friend on a weekend, I'd more highly recommend hiring a tandem bicycle and riding along the Han