Archive for October 2006

Views, glorious views

One day when I was feeling particularly energetic, Marshall and I decided to take a hike up one of the tallest peaks in Seoul.

Okay, so we cheated and drove most of the way, but I swear the last 20 minutes I had to hike! The mountain is called Namhansanseoung and it towers over most of Seoul. From the top you can see for miles and it really helped give me a layout of Seoul.

chusok-and-bedazzle-038.jpg chusok-and-bedazzle-039.jpgOf course, there are still large chunks of Seoul missing here – hidden by other mountains or just pollution and haze.

The city just runs for miles and miles and miles. There is no real center of the city but lots of different areas that have their own ‘centers’  (aaggghhh, I just spelled it like an american!)


On the weekend, the trails up the mountain are jam packed with Koreans. There are exercise areas laid out along the way and natural springs with communal cups to make sure you stay refreshed.

 chusok-and-bedazzle-040.jpgchusok-and-bedazzle-041.jpgThe funniest part is that the Koreans almost have a uniform for hiking. Generally, you will wear black pants tucked into sock and boots, black long sleeved shirt that goes up the neck, gloves (often white, but occasionally black), scarves tied around their faces, and giant visors. They are very proud of their light skin here so they do not want any sort of sun touching them on the hike.

All along the mountain different trails run – mountain biking, hiking, paved, cars. But the major trail leads up to a little fortress that long ago was used as a defense point. chusok-and-bedazzle-042.jpg

From there, you get the best views and my photos are pretty inadequate especially compared to those people who have gone up at night and seen the sunset and the lights come on. We are really hoping to camp up there one night in the near future.

If you face away from the city, the view is equally amazing – mountains that run on into the distance. On this side there are some good climbing walls too.



1 comment October 18, 2006


I realized that I completely forgot to finish the story of sitting at my house with a ton of glitter. We were all getting ready for a bedazzle party that happens once a year here at SIS. The basic idea is to wear as much glitter as possible (not hard to find here, the Koreans are pretty tacky), meet separately (girls at one house, boys at another) and then head out drinking. It really is a lot of fun and people here really get into it. To show what I mean, take a look at some of the photos from that night…..

bedazzle-002.JPGMechum and Johnbedazzle-010.JPGyes, that’s me!chusok-and-bedazzle-047.jpg

The whole party was great but there were definitely moments when you would stop, realize what you were wearing, and be monumentally embarrassed. But then someone would hand you a drink while wearing a ridiculous outfit, and you forgot all about it.

Add comment October 18, 2006


So, I realize it has been a while since I posted, and a lot has happened. Namely, we had our Chusok break. Chusok is the Korean equivalent of thanksgiving and it is a huge holiday here. We had a whole week off and headed to Vietnam. THat posting will have to come later because we had a blast – 3 days in Hanoi, 2 days in Hoi An, and 2 days in Ho Chi Minh. It was awesome, but I don’t have most of the photos.

However, right before the vacation, we celebrated Chusok at our school.  It is an opportunity for the students to dress up in their traditional outfits called Hanboks and to show their gratitude by bringing in food. We got so many boxes of biscuits and candies brought in that we thought we would be set for the year. Unfortunately, Korean biscuits and candies are gross. They have no sugar and are usually made from rice paste which gives them a thick, doughy texture. Not nice.

On the bright side – all the students looked adorable. Mothers were all in the school taking photos and we did a parade through the high school.  I don’t think these outfits are very flattering on adults but on kids I love them.  Basically, this is just another chance to show off my wonderful students! They also taught me this really fun game that involves throwing sticks in the air, seeing how they land and then moving that number of spaces. It sounds dumb but it is really actually very fun – so get ready to see it at the wedding!

THE STICK GAME! chusok-and-bedazzle-010.jpgchusok-and-bedazzle-013.jpgchusok-and-bedazzle-016.jpgchusok-and-bedazzle-018.jpgchusok-and-bedazzle-023.jpgchusok-and-bedazzle-025.jpgchusok-and-bedazzle-026.jpg

Add comment October 18, 2006

Things you might not know about Korea

1. most toilets are squat toilets and/ or  don’t have toilet paper

2. they spray for mosquitoes frequently. A bus drives past and sprays out this foul cloud of mist that you just have to breathe in. I’m sure it’s good for you!

3. In restaurants, even if they have pictures of the foods, they will show the food in the raw form. This is partly because at almost every restaurant, unless you order soup, you cook the food yourself on grills in the middle of the table.

4. people don’t cover their mouths when coughing, sneezing or spitting. It’s lovely.

5. they don’t have much fashion sense. I think they want to be like the Japanese who wear weird clothes but look cool. Unfortunately, they just look weird here.

6. At the entrance to most parking garages, girls in mini skirts and boots sing and dance and wave you in. Apparently jazz hands make you park better.

7, Berries just don’t exist here. I have not seen a single strawberry, blueberry, raspberry or blackberry since I have been here.

8. If you pretend you don’t know what the Korean is saying, you can get away with almost anything. They will give up trying and let you do it anyway.

1 comment October 16, 2006

Wow! what an experience!

I have a newfound respect for Koreans. They are extremely driven and always aim to be the best at everything they do. They do not take anything lightly, not even relaxation. Kids don’t go to the tennis courts and hit a ball with a friend, they take their coach. They don’t just go for a walk, they take a full on hike.

I tried their version of a relaxing day at the sauna…….

I intended to take Lindy there for her birthday but I was nervous about how it all worked so I decided to go the day before with some other teachers who go regularly.  I am so glad that I went with someone who knew what was going on otherwise I would have been yelled at constantly (Koreans are happy to yell at you whenever you step out of line or do something in the wrong order). When you arrive, you are given some very attractive peptobismol pink shorts and t shirt.  You wear these into this coed communal area where the whole floor is heated. There are people just laying on the floor watching TV, reading books. Others are sitting in coin operated massage chairs. There are even some dog kennel looking tunnels with mattresses in them where you an just sleep. We went into the sauna rooms – there are two different rooms with two different temperatures so we chose the cooler one. Koreans don’t like to talk while they’re in there so you pretty much just lay and sweat. This is where they start to get serious. Many of the people in the sauna room will wear sweat pants over their shorts and t shirt, keep a towel on their heads and sip hot coffee. Crazy eh? Once we’d had enough, we went to the little restaurant. They have a small menu of dishes nutritionally designed to be healthy. I had seaweed soup with rice which is apparently very high in iron. Once that was done with, we headed into the female only section where the real experience started.  Everyone is completely naked. When you enter, you have to take a shower and completely scrub yourself clean, including washing your hair. Then there are 3 different pools to go in. One is a whirlpool with green tea bags in it, one is a still pool but is very hot, and the third is a cold pool with jets that hit you. There is also a steam room and sauna in there.  Whole families are in there – kids, grandmas. They are scrubbing each other and just having fun. Then, in the corner you can get a ‘massage’. This is no regular massage. And there is nothing relaxing about it. First you are scrubbed down. And I mean scrubbed. With brillo pads, about 3 times. You start to wonder if you have any skin left, or if you are bleeding! The most disgusting part is that it leaves this grey paste which is just your dead skin cells and dirt.  The ladies doing the massage really scrub you! They open your legs and scrub right the way up. They’re not too worried about where they touch. They even go down your butt crack!

Then, you are soaped up, you rinse and then the oil starts. They use almost a half bottle of baby oil on your body. You start to think “oh, this feels good, nice and relaxing” then the pounding starts. It is a lymphatic massage which basically means that the lady beats you! She hits pretty hard using a cupped hand, a fist or elbows and knees.  It is a jarring experience. All you can hear is slapping. The ladies doing the massage are in just panties and when they are at your head doing your chest (by the way, they actually buff your breasts!), your face is either caught between their belly rolls or stuck between their breasts. It is not like anything I have ever experienced. The table gets so slippery that you nearly slide right off the table so the lady ties a towel round your head and pulls you back up. They scrub your head and even run their knuckles up and down your face. The whole process lasts about 35 minutes and when you finish your skin is red from being hit. 

Now, you may wonder why in the world I would choose to go through this process. When you rinse off the excess oil, your skin is baby soft. It is amazing, I couldn’t stop touching myself! You feel invigorated and wide awake too. After all that, I will definitely go again.

Mum, get ready!

1 comment October 15, 2006

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