A Year in Seoul - video by Maddy

Monday, April 27, 2009


Photos from the Lotus Lantern Festival to celebrate Buddha's Birthday:

Lantern Parade

Pretty temple door

Make a wish Buddha

Paper lanterns at the temple

Yeah, I made this. No, really, I did.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Window to my Seoul...

Love my city <3

Proof that I did indeed make it hiking. Even though we got lost in the "wilderness" and Maddy got the stigmata, it was a great day.

So beautiful! And a preview to this weekend's paper lantern festival!

Found a great new night spot. So much going on!

Foreign Teacher field trip! Day off work to explore a Korean Folk Village - kind of like the Korean version of Plymouth Plantation. Too bad it rained all day.

Architecture close up at the Korean Folk Village

Traditional Korean sweet. Tastes okay but it's made with magic... I saw it.

Cherry Blossom time!
In Korea, you have to pose like this with cherry blossoms. Preferably you should take the picture with your cell phone.

hamming it up... when in Seoul...

Monday, April 20, 2009

I learn something new every day

Word for word from my 5th grade Teacher's Guide Text book (spelling and grammar mistakes included)

Cultural Tips

The culture of exclamation

Western people show exclamation even over trifles. This phenomenon isn't found an oriental culture that appreciates people who control their feeling and taciturn. We can usually see Americans who are moved so easily by things that Koreans aren't effected by. This means they are accustomed to expressing feeling freely and frankly.

In western culture, they start a conversation about the weather when they meet someone for the first time: 'It's a lovely day, isn't it?'. This is referenced to the inclement weather in England. (!!!!! priceless)

The people who live in an area with nice weather like Korea aren't touched by this kind of thing but Englishman can be impressed.

Ummm nice weather like Korea? I'm pretty sure this isn't the tropics and today it's dark, cloudy, and rainy out. Guess I need to be more in control of my feelings and taciturn. Maybe tomorrow will be sunny so I can be impressed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On the move!

Just booked tickets to Taipei for the Children's Day long weekend in May. In under two weeks I'll be crossing borders again - off to temples, markets, skyscrapers, and of course, the beach!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maybe the best post I will every write...

Today was a day filled with learning, but while the rest of it can wait, I cannot go a minute longer without sharing - THE SOUTH KOREAN URBAN FAN LEGEND!

Apparently, there is a pervasive and serious belief that falling asleep with a fan on in a closed room can lead to asphyxiation and death. So widespread is this belief, that all Korean fans come equipped with a timer which shuts the fan off at night before it kills the unsuspecting sleeper.

This is no joke. Tell any Korean that you are going to fall asleep with your fan on and your door shut and they will tell you that you are going to die. The theories range from "the fan blades chop up all the oxygen particles in the air" "the fan creates a vortex which sucks all the oxygen out of the room" all the way to "the fan causes death by hypothermia" Despite the fact that none of these explanations are scientifically plausible or even logical, they are persistent and even backed by many South Korean medical professionals. The government regularly attributes deaths to "asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners."

Even the media has jumped on the band wagon. Check out this article I found on Wikipedia:

The heat wave which has encompassed Korea for about a week, has generated various heat-related accidents and deaths. At least 10 people died from the effects of electric fans which can remove oxygen from the air and lower body temperatures...
On Friday in eastern Seoul, a 16-year-old girl died from suffocation after she fell asleep in her room with an electric fan in motion. The death toll from fan-related incidents reached 10 during the past week. Medical experts say that this type of death occurs when one is exposed to electric fan breezes for long hours in a sealed area. "Excessive exposure to such a condition lowers one's temperature and hampers blood circulation. And it eventually leads to the paralysis of heart and lungs," says a medical expert.
"To prevent such an accident, one should keep the windows open and not expose oneself directly to fan air," he advised

The government even goes as far as to recommend, "To prevent asphyxiation, timers should be set, wind direction should be rotated and doors should be left open."

It seems that the whole country has been struck by fan hysteria. I just can't get over the ridiculousness, it makes me irrationally happy. I'm going to buy a really big fan, close all my doors and windows, and try it out. I might even video tape it and make it the subject of next week's English lessons. Then again, I don't think I want to be responsible for stopping this urban legend. It's even better than crocodiles in the sewers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I'd tell you to wake up, but you haven't slept in days

No doubt about it, life has been a lot of fun. Spending the past week on my death bed, however, has made me realize that maybe I need to get my act together a little bit. Now that the beautiful weather has rolled in, there are a lot of things I want to do and see.

Seoul isn't exactly one of the world's greatest tourist draws, but I would like to check out some of the palaces and temples in the city. I want to do some hiking before the weather gets too hot and to finally make it to one of the Seoul Veggie Club meetings. I'd also like to find the English bookstore in the city and buy some books to help me study Korean.

Seoul nightlife is a lot of fun, but the late nights and the hour long subway ride in and out of the city make it really hard to accomplish much during the day. This weekend was Maddy's 23rd birthday, so we decided to go hard and celebrate then become functional human beings next weekend.

Well, its Sunday, and things are looking up. I'm feeling better and I went on an apartment cleaning rampage all day in an attempt to disinfect the "sick nest." I'm not what you would consider domestic by any stretch of the imagination, but I am starting to see what's up with this whole cleaning thing... it does feel kind of nice. Just don't get any ideas about me becoming an obsessive compulsive tidier like my extremely deranged (wonderful and beautiful but yes, psychotic) sister -btw Lee, you would have loved to see me scrubbing away at my counter tops in sweatpants and rubber gloves.

Now I'm in the process of organizing my finances in the hopes of sending home that student loan money AND taking a little trip for a long weekend in May (the Philippines? Japan?) Sure, maybe I don't need to take a trip, but it is my solemn duty to make sure that I see as many sights as possible while I am here... and to write about it all and keep everyone interested at home. See? It's for you much more than it is for me.

So, I welcome myself back to the productive lifestyle. It's been a little while, but I think I can get the hang of it again. It was always easier to sleep when the sun is down...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Fever

Before I left the States, everyone asked me, "Aren't you worried about being so close to North Korea?" I really wasn't. The way I see it, in the event of a nuclear attack, the safest place to be is as close to the attacker as possible.

Well, it's only been a month and North Korea has already managed to shoot a missile. It's funny because the whole issue was a lot calmer here than it was on the New York Times website. Life just carried on through the waiting period and through the launching. No surprise, the missile was a dud, provoking a lot of "strong statements" from foreign leaders, but very little action. I must be living in the most placid war zone ever.

So nuclear war has not managed to kill me off, but the Korean common cold just might do the trick. It has been a solid week of a sore throat, stuffy nose, pounding head, and spiking fevers. The fevers rage out of control, and though I haven't been able to take my temperature, the sticky sweat that coats my skin during my morning classes is a pretty good indication that it's high. Did I mention that I'm dizzy and nauseous and unable to eat? I'm no baby when it comes to sickness, but really, kill me now.

The universe showed me some kind of mercy by allowing me a day off on Wednesday for local elections. The weather has been gorgeous, so even though I can't smell the spring air and the sunlight hurts my head (and well, everything hurts my everything...) I dragged myself outside and laid in the park with an equally sick Lacy. I dragged myself through disorienting fevers on Thursday and then came to school without the one thing necessary for teaching on Friday... my voice.

Damn Korean germs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

North Korea: the Drama Queen of Asia

From the Korea Times:

NK Accuses Seoul of Poisoning Players Before Football Match

North Korea has made a belated accusation that South Korean hosts had incapacitated its football players just before a World Cup regional qualifier held here last week, urging the international football association FIFA to look into the matter."The main players of the football team of the DPRK could not get up due to serious vomiting, diarrhea and headaches since the night of March 31, just a day before the match," an unidentified spokesman for the North's football association was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency in a statement carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."It can be said that it was beyond all doubt that the incident was a product of a deliberate act perpetrated by adulterated foodstuff as they could not get up all of a sudden just before the match," the statement said.Seoul beat the North Korean team 1-0 in the Wednesday match.The North claimed its defeat was also partly due to what the spokesman called "biased" calls by referees and accused South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of being behind the plot."It is as clear as noonday that it was a product of the Lee Myung-bak group's moves for confrontation with the DPRK and a deliberate behavior bred by the unsavory forces instigated by it," it said.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Something's Fishy Over Here...

So I finally gave in and went to Dr. Fish....

... I can't believe it took me this long. We laughed it off as weird in Thailand, but we were oh so wrong!
For those of you who don't know, Dr. Fish is a pool full of little fishes that eat the dead skin on your feet while you sit and relax. Once you get over the initial revulsion of dead skin eating fish, it's really fun! Even I, with the world's most ticklish feet, enjoyed myself. It does tickle a lot though, especially when the small ones nibble at your arches and toes. The larger fish feel more like sandpaper, and they really go to work!
This particular Dr. Fish spot is located inside a bar that is otherwise completely like any other bar in the area. They have a large pool in one corner and you can use it for free if you order food or a drink. We ordered a few rounds of Cass, got to chatting, and emerged an hour later with softer skin and a little buzz. The fish seemed pretty psyched about about the experience as well.
p.s. Mom, you and your foot fetish would love this.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Musing

  • Squat toilets: the Asian toilet of choice. Being on the fourth floor of my school means using the kiddy toilets or walking up and down three flights of stairs every time I have to pee. They are tiny - either my aim is going to be legendary or one day I am going to pee all over my pants.

  • I'm convinced that the Beatles were ESL teachers in another life.

  • Statement I really hate: "You don't have to help him, he's slow."

  • I get paid overtime for work done during my normal school hours.

  • Yes. The answer is yes, they definitely eat dog in Korea.

  • I'm really glad my co-teacher isn't into hitting students with sticks... although sometimes I would like to.

  • Turns out drinking bottles of whiskey and eating dried fish with Korean business men is a really fun way to pass the time.

  • While passing the time in the manner listed above I found an in with Korean Air... in the cargo department. So what if I can't get free tickets? I have been assured that if I ever need to ship my body home I can get a discount. Sweet.

  • In Korea I am actually 24 years old. Here you are born one year old and everyone turns another year old at the new year. Therefore, on the new year in 1987 I turned two. I don't like this.

  • It's been a month and I still only know about three Korean words. It's a bit pathetic but I swear I'd do better if Korean words weren't each one hundred syllables long! Case in point: hello - annyeonghaseyo thank you - kamsahamnida Ooo and here's a new favorite! excuse me - shillehagessumnida (I have NOT learned this one yet)

  • I really love how you say hello on the phone in Korea - it sounds like YO-BO-SAY-O but you have to say it with the right tone. I wish people called me more just so I could say it...

  • I really enjoy writing random lists, although figuring out how to end them is hard.


When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, That is love. And between these two, my life flows.
Nisargadatta Maharaj

I came across this quote today.