Thursday, May 28, 2009

Museum Without Walls

Last Sunday we were lucky enough to be escorted to the ancient capital city of Gyeongju - The Museum Without Walls. Our guides were our friend, Eun Ju and her sister Su Yoen. What a difference it makes being accompanied by locals!

Usually any day trip we take requires walking to the subway, riding the subway, changing subway lines, finding the bus terminal, waiting for the bus, riding the over-heated bus and arriving at our destination tired, grumpy and wondering "What do we do now?".

Our friends and tour guides picked us up from our apartment and drove us directly to our first point of call in Gyeonju, Bulgoksa temple. This temple is one of only 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Korea and is the largest and most important temple complex in the country.

Located on the mountain above Bulgoksa is the 2nd UNESCO site in the area, known as Seokguram Grotto. Seokguram is an amazing Buddha statue carved from stone in around 744AD. It sits within a cave temple nestled into one the highest mountains in the area.

The other great thing about traveling with locals is, they know what to order at a restaurant. This is always one of the most awkward and frustrating situations that we experience. Not this day! We were treated to traditional Korean cuisine at it best! Han jong Shik for lunch and Saam for dinner. Lunch was comprised of about 20 different dishes will I counted 50 cups, pots and dishes on our table for dinner. Needless to say we were full and there was plenty left behind.

Since we didn't have to worry about catching buses, subways or taxis home, we were able to stay a little later and experience some of the nightlife. This came in the way of the kings very own garden and the oldest observatory tower in Asia.

A wonderful day, with great food, excellent people, and a fascinating city!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hello My Name is Tazmanian Devil

Name: Tazmanian Devil. Well, actually my name is Brad. Well really, I have a Korean name but nobody knows it and Cindy Teacher can't decipher it because I speak like the tazmanian devil.

Age: nine in Korea, eight in Canada

Favourite Colour: all of Cindy Teacher's crayons squished together in my tiny fist makes the most amazing rainbow lines across my desk

Hobby: screaming and running around the room while twirling at a speed that would make any adult hurl

Second Hobby: Anything that makes Cindy Teacher give me her famous "teacher face". It makes me laugh.

Favourite Animal: A shark because I can randomly make shark noises and pretend to bite Cindy Teacher when she least expects it. My favourite spot is the back of her leg. She appears to not like it, but I'll keep doing it until she loves it. I think she'll cave in soon.

Things that make me happy: Falling off my chair on purpose (especially when I can dramatically throw my arms up and squeal while doing it), speaking so fast that nobody understands me, spontaneously turning into a frog and ribbiting Korean words, when my classmate John cry-laughs at my funny faces, when Cindy Teacher tells me to speak English...silly Teacher, I don't know any English.

Things that make me unhappy: When Cindy Teacher takes me into the hall and acts-out picking up an invisible phone, dialing, and speaking to my mother. No, that's not good. That makes me slow my twirling and spinning for a whole ten minutes!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What we can buy for under $25!

Our Tuesday, summed up by expenses:

  • two hair cuts (and yes, they actually look good)- 12000 won (about $10)
  • at a small restaurant off the beaten path there is a plain looking restaurant/house where a korean couple makes the most delicious food. Brett discovered it a week ago when eating with his Korean friend. It is now my favourite place to eat. We had two bowls of bibimbap made with freshly grown veggies (right from their garden), and served with 8 side dishes and a massive bowl of kimchi stew. They even gave us a free sweet drink made of rice!- 10 000 won (about $8)
  • 20 giggling 3 year olds, all lined up wearing the same track suit and waiting for the same school bus, excitedly saying "hello" because they don't know any other English words, and then screaming with delight when I say "hello" back (repeated about 8 times, even after I was so far away that I had to yell "heeellllooo!")- FREE
  • a large plate of noodles in spicy red sauce, and a huge bowl of Japanese style soup shared for dinner at the restaurant beside our school- 4000 won (about $3.50)

Total- $21.50

Monday, May 18, 2009

Markets, Used Clothing Stores, and Cindy's S Curve

Howdy folks. Cindy here.

Well as the time here speeds by us, we are trying to see everything. Impossible. But hey, we try. We work Saturdays, so that gives us one day a week to explore. This past weekend we headed off to a market we were unfamiliar with in Daegu.

As soon as we stepped off the subway at Chilsong market, we knew something was "a little fishy". The scent of fish and other things we could not identify immediately assaulted our nose. We are used to the strange smells here. But this one was extraordinarily fish-a-stinkish. We headed up to wander the streets, but I have to admit that it was completely my fault that we were back on the subway about 10 minutes later. Somedays I can take the smell, and somedays I can't. This was apparently a day I could not.

So we headed back to more familiar and less stinky territory downtown. We wanted to continue Brett's eternal search for the perfect man-bag. The man-bag's here in Korea tend to be larger and prettier than my purse...and therefore quite unsatisfactory to the manly Brett. We thought perhaps the used clothing stores might have the perfect solution. There is an entire street of used clothing stores in Daegu. It is a wonderful way to spend a day. Somehow looking through someone elses junk is way more fun than sorting and cleaning your own.

The second store we went into had two ajumas (older ladies) sitting amongst the piles and racks of discarded items. "Uh-sus-ay-oh" (welcome) they greeted us. There, hanging from the wall was the man-bag of Brett's dreams (or at least the best he could hope to do in Korea). It was small, and hint of glitter, shiny metal, or gawdy fake name brand labels. As Brett tried it on, one of the ajuma's tugged on my arm.
"Aniyo (no), Canadian."
"Ahhhhhhh. Ohhhhhhhhh. Canadian. Very beautiful."
"Kamsahamnida!" (thank you)

The two ladies then talked away to us in Korean. We think they were saying that I was so tall for a girl, and they are so very short. One of them then grabbed my wrist to test my bone structure. The other one had to do the same. They pinched my arms, patted my legs, imitated how tall I was with their arms fully stretched out above their heads, and then said "Oooooh S curve" and traced the side of my hip. It was a bigger medical than my doctor does! However, the results were positive. They thought my shape was attractive although it is very different to the extremely slim Korean figure. A nice compliment!

We then met up with Matt and Mel for some western style cheesy nachos. We both decided that our bodies have become unaccustomed to the greasiness of western style food. We much prefer the clean rice and veggie style Korean food that we have most nights...although those nachos tasted mighty yummy. As we left the restaurant, we stopped to look at the alcohol-in-a-ziploc-bag store/stand. We decided that this was indeed an adventure that would have to wait for another where we don't have to get up the next morning. Mixed drinks in ziploc bags? Oh so dangerously attractive!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Moustache May

Hello Viewers,

Yes, it is that time again, May. A time when Canadians can start to enjoy warmer weather, green grass, birds singing and moustaches.. confused?

Once again our good friends have taken up the challenge of facial hair artistry to celebrate the month of May.

Discover their moustache wizardry at

Art Vandelay

He likes architecture, saving beached whales and growing a moustache. He is currently employed buy Kruger industries but Penske has shown some serious interest in his capabilities.

Simcoe County Chopper

Grower and Lover of Moustaches.


Likes: Spending time with family and friends, Nitrous Bungee jumping, Extreme breakdancing, Competitive yoga (2002 blackbelt), the smell of fresh ground coffee on a rainy day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Seoul of Asia

Hey! Brett here, remember me?!

Last weekend we were lucky enough to have our second Saturday off in as many weeks. We made the most of this opportunity and took the 1 and a half hour train ride to the Korean capital. Seoul is a vibrant city of over 10 million people, It is bustling with cars, buses, motorbikes and people. The lights are bright and and the food is plentiful and delicious.

We stayed in a traditional Korean house in an area just north of Insadong. The room was small, and apart from a thick blanket, we slept on the floor. It even came with a wake-up service in the form of old Korean ladies dragging boxes along the pavement outside our window.

This trip to Seoul also coincided with a gathering that had been organized by our recruiters and friends, Dan and Aggie. Around 50 English teachers that had been placed in Korea by Teach ESL Korea came together to share stories over galbi, maekju, soju and dancing.

As a city, Seoul always seems to have something going on! Festivals, concerts, parades.... you can always find something interesting to see and do. We were fortunate enough to arrive on Buddha's birthday and were able to witness the celebrations at one of Korea's most historic sites, Jogyesa temple. Even though Seoul has more foreigners in it than other cities, we still attracted some attention and were interviewed by a tv station and were also filmed walking about and taking photos two other times.

Two days and about 1000 photos later (please look at the Seoul in May photo album), we boarded the train bound for Daegu. Our city of 3 million people doesn't seem so big anymore. We had a wonderful weekend in the true heart of Korea, but we were still happy to be back in our little old Siji.