Saturday, December 06, 2008

A New Addition to the Family

Life in Busan is coming to an end. I'm mentally preparing for the move to Seoul and wrapping things up down here. I'll be moving to the capital in around 3 weeks time and am feeling pretty good about things in general. Busan is a great city and I'd prefer to stay down here, but Seoul will also be interesting.

Heather, John, Anthony and I went fishing at Gwangali a few weeks ago. Here's John and Anthony fishing off the artificial rocks. We bought fishing gear and shrimp bait that day and stayed out for a few hours. We didn't catch anything except seaweed, although Anthony did manage to pull in a starfish using the hand reel. Starfish don't make for good eating, so we threw it back.
I wish I had more opportunities to go fishing. As Henry David Thoreau once said "Many men (and women) go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after."

During the weeknights, Anthony will often be over and we usually cook things up together. In this photo, Anthony has grilled his marinated beef to go with my pad Thai. More often than not, things turn out pretty well. Anthony is very easy to please with food, he thinks just about everything tastes 'bomb'.

Even instant noodles.

Here's a dinner from another night. We made grilled hot dogs with sausages from Daejeon Costco and Neapolitan spaghetti.
Normally we watch movies while we eat, or our two favourite television series: Entourage and The Office.

While we're on the topic of food, here's another dish. This one was made by Joon, a new Korean friend of Daniel. It's called naeng chae jok bal, which means 'cold vegetable pork'. It's roast pork seasoned with vinegar, onion and garlic.

Here's a photo of us from a little while ago, celebrating Obama's victory at the Guri Bar in Seomyeon. I was very happy that Obama won the election, and hope that it's the beginning of a new era of more logical American foreign policy. Because he's also the first black president, I celebrated by only drinking black-coloured drinks that day, like Black Russians and B-52s. Photo: Erick Taggart

In some Mega Mart stores in Korea now, the price tags on the shelves are now digital. They're also solar powered, with the fluorescent lighting of the supermarket providing sufficient power to keep them on. If you cover the small solar panel, the numbers disappear after a few seconds but reappear as soon as you stop. I'm guessing that this upgrade also makes data entry much faster.

Three cheers for technology.

Heather and I recently bought this car. It's a 1997 Daewoo Lanos and we picked it up from a very large used car shop in Dongnae. It runs fairly well. On the inside of the back window Heather put up a chobo unjeon (learner driver) sign.

Here's the newest addition to Heather's family. Her oldest sister just had a baby girl and we came to visit them. Now Heather has two nieces.

Birth is a funny thing. I was used to seeing Heather's sister walking around as a pregnant woman. Now the contents of her stomach are out in the world, breathing, yawning and crying.

Her name is Ji-Woo and she was still too young to open her eyes when I last saw her. If you watch her for long enough, she changes facial expressions while sleeping. I distinctly saw an expression of what seemed to be mellow disgust, followed quickly thereafter by one of pleasant exclamation.

While the range of different human emotions are all too familiar to me, I'm sure they're somewhat of a novelty to little Ji-Woo who was having a fun time trying them out for the first time.

And here's her bigger sister, the one and only Ji-Ae. We played games outside the room while the grown-ups talked and rested. I had forgotten how much free fun you can have if you're around someone with enough energy.

Ji-Ae doesn't quite understand how to play hide-and-seek. She knows how to close her eyes, count and look for someone, but she doesn't know how to hide yet. I tried teaching her but what always happens is that when I count (very loudly and slowly), she'll run off and crouch behind something. Then, as soon as I turn around, she'll jump out and yell "RAAaaA!"

Heather also tried to explain the concept of hiding to her, but I think she's getting confused with another game they play at her daycare centre. Still, it was fun to play.

Anthony hosted a gathering at his apartment for the Korean staff of the Busanjin branch. We walked down to the nearby live seafood shop at the end of Gwangan beach and bought around $100 worth of raw fish. That's enough to feed a small army. You can buy around two dozen raw oysters in the shell for $5.

You basically pick and choose which fish you want and the vendors will pluck them out, quench the flapping with a well-placed knife blow to the head, and chop them up into bite sized pieces. You can literally be eating the same meat that was swimming around in the water 10 minutes ago.

Flounders are funny fish. They spend their youth as free-swimming normal looking fish. When they mature, one eye migrates to the other side of the head and they spend their days lying on one side at the sandy bottom of the sea. Looking up into the sunlight, they spot silhouettes of smaller fish and can rise up surprisingly fast. Their two eyes can rotate independently of one another.

I think of them as Picasso Fish, because of the irregular faces they have.

The vendors are nearly all Korean ajummas, who are famous for their fiery personalities. Here's a video of our favourite lady, chopping up a live octopus for us with typical ajumma dexterity and nonchalance.

We brought back our catch to the apartment and feasted on the marine life with wasabi, lemon juice and chili sauce. The five people on the left are all staff from Anthony and John's CDI branch.

We played some drinking games and got a little tipsy. This is a video showing the technique for making a soju bomb. You need two shot glasses, one larger glass, beer, soju (or vodka if you don't have any) and Fanta or Coke. The soft drink goes in the bottom shot glass, followed by soju in the second and then beer is poured on top. If you drink it in one go, the final glass acts as a chaser.

Three of these will assist conversational abilities with any stranger.

Last weekend, Heather and I went up to Seoul to meet my professor. Near the hotel where we stayed, this enormous pot of seolleung-tang (beef bone soup), was quietly bubbling in a shop front window. That's enough seolleung-tang to feed around 50 people.

We also visited the Mok-dong CDI campus, which is one of the seven main branches in Seoul. Donna is the Branch Manager of this campus now. She was our first BM in Busan when we started.

The Mok-dong branch has 1600 students and 40 teachers.

CDI Test Prep is a relatively new program that prepares students for school entrance exams. It's catered toward advanced students and the Mok-dong branch has an entire floor devoted to it. At this branch there are 800 Eagle level-or-higher students. Eagle level is textbook material for high school native English speaking students.

The computer lab. I saw an interesting talk on TED recently, about the misplaced idea that more computers equals better education. Clifford Stoll (an American physicist) says that the increasing number of computers in schools can stifle other important skills that children need to learn.

To a certain extent, I agree.

Donna took us out to lunch at the Del Cruise buffet, a rather flash restaurant near the school. Any self-respecting buffet in Korea these days will have escargots, sashimi and fresh lychee as standard fare.

Heather with her two new friends.

We also met up with Jang-Ho, Heather's younger brother. We drank together at a bar in Myeong-dong for quite some time before trying to catch a taxi to get home. That's him with the scarf, clutching the box of his mother's banchan that we brought up from Busan. Late at night in Seoul, because there are so many customers and not enough taxis, it can take more than an hour before you finally manage to flag one down.

I've started organising my accommodation in Seoul, as well as mentally preparing for the change. To become a student again, after two and a half years of working life means that I'll have to reinvent myself to a certain degree. Deep down, I always was more of the academic type, but a lot of my science know-how has lain dormant since I left Australia. It won't be long until the dusty textbooks of my mind will need to be reopened.

There's a lot of hard work and a big challenge ahead of me. Heather puts up with my occasional complaining about such things, which means that you guys are all spared for the time being. Thanks to her, Lee's Korea Blog is not merely an avenue for the negative grumblings of a soon-to-be overworked Australian Korean student.

See you next time!


CheaYee said...

Hello hello..

just found ur blog on google... hmm didn't know that australians kept blogs.

Ya, i am heading to korea for vacation, and also to busan. SO yes, i found ur blog under busan search keys. lol.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Hello, nice to meet your blogm
thanks for the share, So I can understand a little about Korean especially busan :)