Wednesday, May 28, 2008


My writing students write weekly journal entries in small notebooks, most of which have English on the cover. Here are some of the more memorable notebook covers:

I Like Languid Afternoon
Window, PM2:00
And You.

Making Pong
Drinking water in a glass bottle be as small as not see Alice.

Travel over Europe, The greatest physician in the world is optimism

Follow Your Own Signal
concentrate one's attention
Don't look back.
Laughing at myself.
Choose life.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Return

I finally bought my ticket back to Boston! $1080 got me a one-way ticket from Seoul to Tokyo to Los Angeles and finally to Boston on August 5th. Obviously making two stops is not ideal, but the travel agents said that one stop tickets were over $1500 because August is high season. I'm hoping I'll be so happy to return that those 25+ travel hours will just fly by...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Seoul Apartment

Since I've been teaching in Seoul, my work has given me access to an apartment there. The apartment is on the 20th floor of a big apartment building and the view is really nice:

The apartment building is right next to COEX Mall, a huge underground mall which includes an aquarium and a cinema. The subway is connected to the mall, so I often walk through it on my way to the apartment. I'll sometimes stop at Bandi & Luni's, a great bookstore with a decent sized English-language section. Another teacher first brought me there when I arrived in Korea and signed me up for its free discount card, which entitles me to an automatic discount (somewhere between 15-20%) and the ability to earn points to apply to future purchases. I've easily saved over a hundred dollars because of this card.

I also stop off at the upscale Hyundai Department Store (connected to COEX) because of its wonderful food basement. I can pick up Chinese dumplings, a fresh salad, French pastries, whole wheat bread, or whatever else looks good. I also buy limited groceries at the adjacent Hyundai supermarket. Last week, I was excited to see mangoes for sale but almost dropped one on the floor when I realized it cost 30 dollars!

I figure I should take advantage of the Seoul apartment. I can't imagine a time in the future when an employer will provide me with an apartment- much less two!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hanbok 한복

Koreans have a beautiful style of traditional clothing called hanbok. Women wear hanbok for celebrations and certain holidays. Nowadays most Korean couples opt for a western style wedding with its western gown and tuxedo, but they will still have an additional set of wedding photos taken while wearing hanbok.

Although there are several parts to hanbok, the two dominant aspects are the longer gown and the short jacket. Given the flowing nature of the gown and the way the jacket just covers the upper chest, hanbok does not particularly emphasize a woman's curves.

Young woman at Jeonju Hanok village

Another woman from the Jeonju Hanok village. These women were greeting guests for a small presentation/concert.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jeonju 전주시

Jeonju is the capital of the Jeollabuk-do province, which is located in the south west of Korea. It is known for its food (it's the supposed birthplace of bibimbap), traditional crafts and historic buildings.

I first met Kylie, a soon to be British university student, on Jeju and we traveled together for a day there. I was able to meet up with her again on Friday to go to Jeonju in order to see the Hanok village. The Hanok village is a section of Jeonju city filled with traditional homes. My guidebooks don't even or barely mention this area of Jeonju, but it was wonderful! A lot of the homes have been newly built, but it's still easy to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the design. There were many small cultural centers scattered within the village; we went to an oriental medicine museum, a handicraft museum, and a traditional wine museum. We also saw a woman making hanji, the traditional paper made from the bark of mulberry trees. After walking around for awhile, we went to a traditional tea house. Walking around the Hanok village gave me a better appreciation and understanding for how people traditionally lived in Korea; I'd add it to my (not yet written) "best things done in Korea" list.

inside Gyunnggi Jeon, a portrait of Lee Sung Gye, founder of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910)
traditional style house
notice all the kimchi pots
a house in need of renovation

A local woman directed us to this famous bibimbap restaurant

some kind of jelly
marinated sweet potatoes- delicious!

Some of the special Jeonju bibimbaps boast over 30 ingredients. I didn't count, but this certainly had more than the normal selection of vegetables.

Damyang 담양군

Damyang, a city famous for its bamboo production, is located in the Jeollanam-do province, the Southernmost province on the mainland. To get there from Jeonju, I had to take a 90 minute bus ride south to Gwangju and then a 30 minutes bus ride back north to Damyang. I went to the Bamboo Museum, which included many examples of how Koreans have traditionally used bamboo, and then I went to Jooknokwon (죽녹원), a bamboo park.

A small road off the bamboo forest walking path led to a "bamboo living experience center". I'm not sure what this experience center is supposed to be, but there were lovely (new) traditional structures, some gardens and a few ponds. I enjoyed this quiet area especially because I was the only person there.

for comparison, a bibimbap in Gwangju

Monday, May 05, 2008

Jeju Island 제주도: April 26 - May 3

I wanted to spend my last vacation traveling in Korea. Jeju Island is Korea's most popular domestic tourist destination and I thought that was a good enough reason to go there. Koreans are proud of Jeju and are probably right in thinking that it's the prettiest part of the country. Jeju does get international tourists, but I was the only foreigner on both of my flights and saw only a handful of foreigners on the island. I ran into several large school groups and Korean honeymooners, who were easily identifiable in their identical couple shirts.

Jeju was formed by a volcanic eruption 2 million years ago and has a subtropical climate. Korea's tallest mountain, Hallasan, dominates the geography and can be viewed on a clear day from most anywhere on the island. When I climbed it, however, I could barely see 20 yards in front of me. I kept hoping the fog would burn off by the time I reached the summit so I'd be able to see the crater lake at the top. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and I have no photos from Hallasan to post. I also went to Manjanggul, which is part of the Geomunoreum lava tube system. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is supposed to be the longest lava tube in the world at 8,928 meters, but visitors are only allowed to see 1 kilometer of the tubes. It was too dark for any decent pictures.

traditional Jeju houses and grandfather stone

Cheonjeyeon waterfall

Yongmeori Coast
Korean women selling sea cucumbers and urchins. They'll slice up anything if you want a picnic right there on the rocks. I had ramen at the temple instead...

Hyeopjae beach on the west coast of Jeju, view to Biyangdo island

Sanbangsan Temple

Jeju is famous for its Hallabong, a sweet citrus fruit that's like a cross betweent tangerines and oranges. Hallabong are very expensive on the Korean mainland but are not exactly cheap on Jeju, especially if purchased in the gift boxes. 10 large Hallabong might cost upwards of 30 dollars! I found smaller ones at roadside stands for about a dollar a piece.

Smaller temple and buddha inside a natural cave on the side of Sanbang Mountain

view looking out of the cave

Cheonjiyeon waterfall

On the walk back to the main road from O'Sulloc's Tea Museum. A lot of touristy places on Jeju are not easily accessible by public bus. I caught a ride with a local on the way to the tea museum, which saved me 3 miles of walking. The road was so pleasant though that I happily walked the way back. This walk probably represents the longest that I've been outside in Korea without any other people around. It was glorious!

tea fields- all the walls are made with the black volcanic rocks

Women hang squid (or cuttlefish, I'm not sure which) in the early morning to let it dry. Dried fish and squid are popular snacks in Korea.

Seaweed out to dry

Sunset in Seongsanpo, a small port city on the south east coast of Jeju.

Hongjodangoe-haebin beach on Udo, view to Jeju. Udo island is a 15 minute ferry ride away from Seongsanpo. Udo is a quiet little island with few cars and little activity. I spent a peaceful afternoon riding around the narrow roads on my rented bicycle and relaxing on the beach.

Udo island, view to Jeju island. Jeju is known for its Haenyeo, or women divers. These women, some in their 60s, dive daily for sea cucumbers, urchins and abalone that they can sell to supplement their family income. It's no surprise to me that Jeju women live longer than the men.
traditional houses on Udo

hoedopbap- raw fish with raw vegetables and rice, served with the red pepper paste

buckwheat pa-jeon filled with radishes- delicious!

Seongsan Ilchulbong or Sunrise Peak. I woke up at 4:30 to see the sunrise from the top of this volcanic crater and it was worth it!