Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Arts & Crafts" Is My Middle Name!

Well Carl and Monica have arrived without incident and they both dove head first into their in-depth tour of Korea.  Carl's flight got in over an hour early on Thursday, leaving him waiting for me for a few minutes when he got off the airport bus at Gildong Sageori.  I left right at 4:40pm and booked it over to the Gangdong Stop so I could meet up with him.  We took his stuff to the apartment and caught up for a while before getting some dinner (a medley of cheap Korean classics: chamchi (tuna) gimbabkimchi jjigae, and dolsot bibimbap from Gimbab Sarang).  Then it was a quick trip to the medium sized HomePlus to grab some groceries before heading back to my apartment.  When we got back and started to unpack the stuff Carl brought (namely the air mattresses), we realized that we had forgotten to get batteries at the store, so we headed back out.  I have never bought batteries here, but I figured they would be up with all the electronic stuff on the second floor.  We looked around for a while, but had no luck.  Of course neither of us knew the Korean word for battery (oh my god, embarrassingly I just looked it up on Google Translate and found out that the Korean word for battery happens to be 배터리...bae-tuh-ree) so we ended up grabbing a flashlight with a diagram on it and pointing to the batteries while looking around longingly.  The guy caught our drift and motioned that the batteries were downstairs, where we did end up finding them. We got four D-cell batteries for less than $2!  I was wondering how Korea manages to produce batteries so much cheaper than the US...and then I found out that it's because they last roughly 2 minutes in an air mattress pump, haha.  We blew up one of the air mattresses and found out that the two wedged EXACTLY in the two open spaces on my floor.  Not a centimeter to spare, believe me!  We settled in for the night with Iron Man playing on my computer, and Carl predicted he would be asleep in about 45 seconds.  That was a pretty accurate was definitely under two minutes between when his head hit the pillow and when he was completely out.  The next morning he didn't even stir as I got ready for work and left. 

Friday I taught all morning and for some reason my fifth period class was cancelled, so I had a few minutes to get my stuff together before dashing out to meet Carl at the airport bus stop right by my school.  I had left him very detailed directions on how to get from my apartment to the bus stop and he didn't have any trouble following them.  We waited a few minutes and then boarded the bus and headed out to Incheon Airport.  After a leisurely hour and a half ride, we got to the airport, figured out where Monica would be coming out, and sat around for a while waiting for her.  Monica rolled out of the gate, we did the whole reunion business, and then went over and rented them a phone for the time that they are here (since I'll be working most of that time).  Then we hopped back on the bus and journeyed to the other side of Seoul to begin our adventures.

We dropped off Monica's stuff and she grabbed a shower before we ventured down to Myeongil (Erich's stop) to get some galbi.  We went to a place he suggested (Don & Cow...bizarre name) where the beef was DELICIOUS (even though it was grilled on electric instead of coals) and they only ended up charging us for one order instead of us a filling and tasty dinner for three for a grand total of...less than $8.  Then we left with the plan of getting ice cream, but actually ended up at a "western hof rest" (western bar and restaurant) called Cheers where we had a couple beers and ate some tasty 치킨 나초스 (chicken nachos).  Then it was back to the pad where we all caught up for a while and hit the sheets for an early morning on Saturday.

Saturday we departed the house around 8:00am to head over to meet the WorknPlay group at Nambu Bus Terminal.  It was the first time I used the new orange line connection at Ogeum and it was super nice.  Classy new train, really clean and sparkly new station, the works.  We got to the bus terminal with a little time to spare, so we grabbed some drinks and chatted with the other people on the tour, including some March SMOE hires and bilingual Korean college students.  I also caught up with Dana, who it felt like I hadn't seen in forever when in reality it was only like 8 days.  We waited for a late girl so we boarded the bus a little behind schedule.  It took us about an hour to get to Icheon, during which Dana and I talked to James and Jenna, two college students from Seoul National University of Technology and Korea University respectively.  Their English was quite good and it was nice to chat with them for a while.  

We arrived at the pottery studio and got right down to business, quickly getting dirty as we began throwing our ceramics.  Thankfully they gave us aprons to wear so (aside from Dana) we all made it out relatively unscathed.  We started by choosing what type of pottery we wanted to make.  You had various options, including two kinds of vases, bowls of different sized, jewelry boxes, cups, etc.  I chose a small vase, Carl and Monica got bowls, and Dana made a jewelry box.  There was a professional there with a wheel and he would help you mold what you wanted.  Somehow there was some confusion and I ended up with a kind of wonky big vase instead of the smaller one that I wanted, but it worked out okay, I guess.  After you made your piece he would cut it off with a wire and you would take it to a work table.  You had a moment to wash your hands and then it was down to the business of personalizing your creation.  I ended up making a autumnal looking tree on the side of mine, with my name and the date on the other side.  Carl and Monica decorated their bowls, and then we all helped Dana craft flowers for the top of her jewelry box.  After washing up again, it was time to head off to lunch.

Owner of the pottery studio, showing us our options.

Carl showing off his craftsmanship.

I'm a pro, obviously.

Dana, Carl, Me, and Monica working on our pottery.

The front of my vase.

The back (my name in Korean).

Carl's bowl...could you have guessed that?

The VERY decorated top to Dana's jewelry box.


Apparently Icheon rice is quite famous and used to be served only to kings and nobility.  Now even waegooks can eat it!  We went to a restaurant that had a huge spread for us including: grilled fish, raw crabs, a million side dishes, japchae, pork, soup, etc.  It was delicious and there was some stuff there I had never tried.  Carl was brave enough to sample the raw crab.  I was not.  I'm not THAT Maryland...besides, it didn't even have any Old Bay on it!

Carl sucking on a raw crab.  Korean James laughing at him from the background.

After lunch we headed off to the World "CeraMIX" Exhibition.  An English speaking guide took us around, leading us through the park and into a giant replica of the hillside ovens that Koreans traditionally fire their pottery in.  At one point, she was talking to us as we stood around this big computerized pool with drops of water falling into it.  Swear to god, she said "Look, its like a jew in the morning."  It took me a few moments to realize she meant "like the dew in the morning" and by that point Monica and I were laughing uncontrollably.  It was awesome.   We walked around for a while more, including in museum hall that had some awesome art work on display.  After doing a little shopping in the museum gift shop, we headed down to a little hanok (traditional Korean house) where we got to experience a lovely traditional tea ceremony.  It was green tea, which is not my favorite, but slowly something I am getting used to here.  The women were very nice and it was quite peaceful.  

Carl and a...long lost friend?

So Korean.

Carl, Me, Monica, and Dana posing with an adorable "ceramic" pot.

View of Icheon from the festival grounds.

Posing in a ceramic butterfly.

Awesome melted plastic artwork in the museum.

This is made of work gloves! So cool.

Pouring our tea.

Tea ceremony.

One shot!

After the tea ceremony we were given some free time to roam around.  We walked through a couple of huge exhibition tents (think craft fair, but completely ceramics related) where I got yet another pair of earrings and dreamed about one day having a house that I'll be able to furnish with cool, one of a kind stuff I buy on my trips abroad.   When we got bored with ceramics, we headed outside where there was ice cream to be had.  As we were eating our soft serve, we took in a taekwondo performance that some kids were doing (totally impressive...and hilarious when they did choreographed routines to  K-pop songs).  We happened to be standing right next to an area where two men were wielding huge mallets and making ddok by pounding big things of steamed rice into a gelatinous blob.  I swear it was only moments after they saw Carl that they had pulled him in to help.  After a while, Monica took over, successfully spraying me with booger sized  globs of green rice goo.  It was fun to watch!  We even got to eat some of the actual ddok they made after it was done!  Cool stuff. 

Mash that rice, Carl!

Monica showing the rice who is boss.

Enjoying the fruits of their labor.

By that time it was nearly 5:00pm and it was time to get back on the bus and head off to Seoul.  Getting back to Seoul took a little longer because of rush hour traffic, but I slept a good chunk of the way so it wasn't so bad.  When we got back to Nambu Bus Terminal we said our goodbyes to Dana and headed down to Gangnam where we ate some tasty pork cutlets from Saboten and watched Iron Man 2 (and by "watched", I mean "tried and failed to keep Monica awake through").  We taxied home and slept like logs.

Sunday morning we woke up a little later and headed to meet the girls at brunch at Flying Pan White in Sinsa.  This trendy little restaurant was bustling and it took a bit to get a table (we were a large group of 6) but that worked out since most of us were late anyway, haha.  Breakfast was...amazing.  The menu was a little more fancypants than we're used to, but oh my god it was tasty.  I got amazing pancakes with strawberries, fresh cream and ricotta cheese.  Others got banana/ice cream pancakes, an asparagus and egg dish, a beautiful sandwich and salad, and so much more.  Then we all split a fresh bread platter with four dips:  hummus, olive spread, ricotta cheese and a pesto-brie dip.  It was so good and I'm sure they couldn't believe how much food just kept coming to to our table, haha.  After we finished we sat around for a bit (chatting and digesting) before we were off to Insadong for the big celebration of Buddha's Birthday and the Lotus Lantern Festival.

Monica, Carl and Dana

Julia, Laura and I

So. Good.

Yet another successful meeting of the brunch bunch.

When we arrived in Insadong we met up with Ayzia and and headed over to the area where foreigners got to make these huge, free, beautiful lotus lanterns.  One of the perks of being a waegook, I guess.  I am pretty sure that every foreigner in Korea was there...I bet Itaewon was DEAD on Sunday.  I ran into Andie and Candice from my apartment building, and saw a ton more SMOE teachers as we walked around.  We arrived at the lantern making area around 1:30pm, but apparently the lotus lantern making started at 11:00am, which I swear was never mentioned on the internet literature.  At first they told us that there were no seats/materials left, but after we looked really sad for a few minutes the lovely temple volunteers gave up their seats at the registration table and scrounged up some materials for us.  We had to book it in order to finish in time, but it was really fun.  The petals come in a little packet, all stuck together like muffin tin liners.  You peeled them apart, and then used glue on your fingers to twist one end on each to make the petal shape.  Then you glued them onto the lantern shell, overlapping as you went around.  Carl and Dana double teamed a lantern, Monica, Ayzia and I each made our own, and Laura helped by twisting petals for whoever needed them.  We ended up with 4 awesome lanterns, if I do say so myself.  During the process there was a very helpful and friendly temple volunteer who talked to us, asked lots of questions, and was generally a really good resource.  

Carl makes terrible faces.

I swear he had a good time...even though it looks like he's disgusted by lanterns.

Ayzia with her finished product.

Carl and Dana with their work of art.

My lantern and I.

Mon and her lovely lantern.

Waegooks unite!

Cuuute! I love the colors.
After we made our lanterns and had a mini-photo shoot, we started walking down the street to Jogyesa Temple, which was pretty much the headquarters for the festival.    The entire street in front of the temple was full of stalls and booths with activities, food, art, information, etc.  Our whole group went into the temple grounds, which had a ceiling constructed of thousands of paper lanterns.  It was breathtaking.  They were so colorful and absolutely beautiful.  We walked around for a while, taking in some traditional performances, checking out the temple, etc.  Then we split up into two groups: Carl, Dana and Laura headed down the street quickly, while Ayzia, Monica and I kind of meandered.  Along the way we did various crafts, including making a temple accessory composed of a two fish that you write your wishes on, and making single lotus flowers on a stem.  It was just a great atmosphere with a lot going on.  

Street in front of the temple where the festival took place.

Lantern ceiling over Jogyesa grounds.


Love this group photo!
(Ayzia, Carl, Dana, Laura, Monica, Me)

The birthday boy himself.

We met up with the other mini-group and Julia at Jonggak Tower where we had some pricey drinks that came with a beautiful view.  Then we walked down the street and found a little Bonjuk/Bibimbap place where we had a tasty dinner crammed around a table in an area where they really didn't have room to seat seven of us, haha.  Once dinner was done, we all had a hankering for some ice cream.  Using a combination of Dana asking for directions from street vendors and Carl using his iPhone, we made our way to a Baskin Robbins (including a mad dash across the parade route) where we got some fantastic ice cream that was just what the doctor called for.  Enjoying our ice cream, we headed down to the parade route to take in the Lotus Lantern Parade.  It was beautiful.  There were hundreds (probably thousands) of people walking with their creative lit lanterns, traditional bands, and huge floats that were lanterns made of hanji, the traditional Korean paper.  They were so cool!  Huge dragon lanterns literally spit fire as they walked down the street (somehow, putting pyrotechnics into an entirely paper lantern would not have crossed my mind).  There were peacocks whose plumage went up and down, elephants that marched down the street, and much more.  We stayed for almost two hours watching the parade and it was fantastic.  Then we headed off to the subway station and came home.  I didn't end up getting to sleep until around midnight on Sunday late for a school night for me!

Creepy king lantern.

Animatronic white elephant.

Walking elephants!  Fire breathing...peacocks?

Dragon spouting fire.

Pretty elephant.

Hoards of ajummas armed with lanterns.

No idea...but it looks cool.

Lanterns as far as the eye can see!

Our boy Buddha.

Pretty hanboks and lanterns everywhere.

And one for the kids, hahaha.

Monday morning I woke up early and got ready for work as Carl and Monica blissfully remained asleep.  Getting ready without waking them up is a lot easier than when Mike was here because then it was still dark when I was preparing for work.  Now at least I have some light to work with!  I came to school and toiled through the day while they had fun exploring Gwanghwamun Plaza, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the Folk Museum.  I met them at 5:45pm in Insadong for dinner at Sanchon, one of the most famous temple food restaurants in Seoul.  We ate our meal of "mountain shoots and leaves" and soaked up the lovely ambiance of the restaurant.  After dinner we picked up some dragon's beard candy on our way back to the subway and called it an early night, falling asleep halfway through the movie Orphan that we downloaded to watch together (Carl has never seen it and Monica and I both agree that it is one of the scariest/most surprising horror movies made in the last few years).   

Yesterday I came in to work, dreading Tuesdays as usual.  It was POURING and super hot and humid in my classroom all day.  However it turned out to be not so bad, thanks to Monica and Carl.  I taught my first three classes with my annoying male co-teacher, and they actually went okay because the kids were doing a role play that basically took up the entire class.  Carl and Monica arrived between third and fourth period and came up to hang out with my sixth grade class.  We were playing a crazy game so they ended up joining in and they came in second (there was absolutely no strategy, so that was pretty impressive...they were in the lead most of the game and the team that beat them passed them on the last question).   The kids were really surprised to see more foreigners ("Teacher!  WHO IS THAT?!") but they got over it.  I'm sure Monica's lip ring will be a topic of conversation for a while, though.  After class Yeon Ah invited them to eat lunch at school and they accepted so we headed down to the cafeteria.  It was a pretty traditional day, with crazy soup and spicy side dishes.  Yeon Ah was worried it was too traditional but I told her that they had just eaten breakfast so they weren't that hungry anyway.  After lunch they hung around until the end of fifth period, meeting my first and second grade returners and playing a game with us.  It was lots of fun.  I sent them off to Lotte World and settled in for an afternoon of lesson planning (aka, watching 30 Rock which made me snort out loud in my silent office, and Private Practice which made me BAWL at my desk).  

After work I walked over and met Carl and Monica at Lotte World.  We did the balloon ride together and then exited the park to get dinner at Lotteria, the fast food chain associated with the Lotte corporation.  Mmmm, bulgogi burger.  Then we went back into the park to take in the hilarious parade of characters and watch some fireworks that they set off during the parade.  That was sweet.  After the parade we headed downstairs to the shooting range, where we all shot with various accuracy.  I got a 92% this time instead of 88%, even though I was sure I had done worse.  [Note: When I got home I discovered that it was because they used different (and much easier) targets!  The sections were significantly larger, to the point where a 10 on the new target could have been as low as an 8 on the old target!  That is a big difference.  I definitely did better last time and now I'm bitter and refuse to hang the new target up, haha.]  Monica fired a ridiculously large gun and got a 98% on the targets, so that was pretty impressive, new target or not.  When we were done shooting we spent a little time watching skaters on the ice rink.  I love watching the little kid speed skaters, and the hilarious tai chi skate dancer was back again.  We headed home, did some journaling and went to bed early as it was a very early morning for Monica and Carl today.

Lotte World! (from the balloon ride)


Carl whispering sweet nothings to Lorry.

We may have played with some sort of larvae.

Undeniably adorable.

No comment.

For the first time since they got here, Monica and Carl had to be out the door before me.  In fact they left before my final alarm to wake up even went off.  Today they headed out to take the DMZ combined tour.  It was overcast but now its getting a little sunny, so hopefully the weather will hold out for them.  Tomorrow it is supposed to be sunny (fingers crossed that Korean weather forecasts are right for the first time ever) and I am sending them down to Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon.  Hopefully it will tire them out so we can all sleep on the bus tomorrow night (believe me, I'm tired already, I shouldn't have any problems, haha).

Tomorrow night we meet in Seoul at 11:30pm to head off with the MeetUp group to Jeollanamdo, the furthest southwest you can go on the mainland.   It takes about 5 hours to get there by bus, so we are expecting to arrive around 4:30am (Friday morning) at a temple that overlooks the Yellow Sea where we'll watch the sunrise (on Buddha's birthday, no less).  Then it is a packed weekend during which we will visit some places I've really been itching to see (ie- the Boseong Tea Plantations and Suncheon Bay Ecological Park) and fun activities (ie- making personalized celadon cups, visiting a traditional folk village, eating lots of good food, and hanging out on a beach).  I am really looking forward to it, but I'm a little concerned that by the time we get back at 9:30pm on Sunday night I'll be too exhausted to move, let along teach coherently the next morning!  I guess we'll see!