Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wild Korean Textbook: 2nd Edition

The second edition of our textbook has been published on and is available for purchase there with worldwide shipping! The first edition is still widely available in bookstores around Korea!

Wild Korean: A Fieldguide to Real Korean Conversation

This book is best for
1. Advanced beginners who want to study more expressions, grammar and vocabulary.
2. Intermediate students who want to study conversational Korean or brush up on their Korean language skill.
3. Students who are sick of boring Korean textbooks.
4. People who want to know how real Korean people speak every day, not clumsy, overly-formal textbook language.

Buy it:

*Kyobo Online* (1st ed. only)

** (1st ed. w/ free international shipping)

Kyobo Bookstores around Korea (1st ed. only)


At the Hangul Kongbubang (Level 2 class)

ISBN-13: 978-1484804872
ISBN-10: 1484804872

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cat drama

Well, Sanghyun's dream finally came true... three times in one week. Yes, that dream. The dream when a CAT actually FALLS INTO OUR HOUSE. (He figured it would be the only way I'd ever let him have a pet cat, but even still, I wouldn't allow it.)

How does a cat fall into one's house? Well, let me try to explain. If you don't know already, we live in a hanok (traditional Korean home), and our house is surrounded by other traditional Korean homes. Between our house and another house there is an alleyway that is technically part of our house because it's blocked off by a door and only we have access to it.

One night as I was trying to fall asleep, I heard a noise which sounded to me like that door opening and I got scared. I called Sanghyun to be manly and investigate. When he opened the door he gasped and started to sound excited. He whispered 'It's a kitten!' But, it wasn't just any kitten. It was an extremely cute kitten... it kind of looked like Puss in Boots (without the boots, hat and sword) and it also had a terrible attitude. We tried to catch it, but as feral cats tend to be, it was not too happy about us trying to catch it. Every time we put our hands near it it would hiss and spit at us. It took us a long time to catch it as it was very good at hiding and burrowing under things, but in the end we succeeded and put her in a tall shopping bag and brought her into our courtyard.

Sanghyun was sure that this was finally his chance to have his own cat. He rushed to the kitchen to find food and water for the kitten. I yelled and screamed that we couldn't keep the kitten... it's too young, too feral, too furry, but, as usual, he didn't listen. He wanted that cat. So, I conceded to letting him keep the cat in the courtyard for the night. Part of me expected the mother cat to come down into our courtyard and try to rescue her kitten over the night, or at least that's what I hoped would happen.

The next morning I left the house at 6:30am to head to work, but I couldn't see the cat anywhere. 6:30 in the morning was not the time of day I wanted to be dealing with lost kittens. When I called at 9am, he informed me that the kitten had somehow gotten itself stuck between our house and the other house which connects to ours. I had never noticed it before, but there is a very small space between our laundry room (which has stairs that go up to the roof) and the neighbor's house. The kitten had fallen between there and was stuck without any way out.

Rescuing the cat would not be an easy task, and it had to wait until we were both home from work that evening. Sanghyun had to jump down into that tiny crevice between the two houses (It was really just wide enough at the widest point for a thin person to get down there. I had no idea how he was going to get out again.) It took nearly an hour to catch the cat and bring it back out and our neighbors must have thought we were crazy.

The mother cat had been watching and waiting on our rooftop the whole day and she watched as we pulled her kitten out from the crevice. Sanghyun finally agreed that it was time to give the kitten back to her mother. We brought the kitten up to the roof where the mother was waiting and gingerly handed it over. The mother cat picked up the kitten with a 'get-to-your-room-you-pain-in-my-ass' kind of attitude and dragged the kitten off, as mother cats do.

And about five minutes later, we heard another crash-bang-clang in the alleyway to find the kitten there again. This time, we immediately returned the kitten to her mother and we thought the drama had ended....

Fast-forward to one week later. We were peacefully watching TV in the living room when we heard a series of scraping on the roof, the sound of something sliding and a thud at the window. Looking through the frosted glass we saw a dark shadow of something moving on our window sill. We thought it could be a rat or something vile, and we were a bit scared to open the window and see what was there.... but we should not have been surprised to see our kitten siting on the window sill looking rather traumatized.

It was then I finally grabbed the camera to document this ridiculous drama. First at the window. 

Now, despite already saving this cat's life three times already, it didn't make it any more friendly toward us. Just approaching it we though it would back its way off the windowsill and down to a new crevice between houses.

We brought it to the courtyard again and fed it and let it run around while we expected the mother to come over and search for her baby. We waited and waited... but the mother was no where to be found.

So, as we had to leave the house, and we were NOT going to leave it in the courtyard again to get stuck between the houses, we realized that the only safe place to leave her was in the bathroom. Which was fine, however, our Airbnb guest was not too pleased to find a very nasty, people hating cat in the bathroom several hours later...

When we came home, we let the kitten out in the courtyard again and FINALLY the mother cat arrived.

We brought her up to the roof to give her back. And, just as before, the mother cat grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and dragged it off again.

It's been two three since we have seen or heard the kitten.... but we keep wondering where it will appear next....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Biking Ganghwado

Crane in a rice paddy, a common sight on Ganghwado

Ganghwado is an island just off the coast of the west coast of Korea. It's also chuck full of things to see, from fortresses, temples, museums, tombs, a pre-historic site, and the DMZ. It's not a small area to cover, and sites are spread out, but we did our best to maximize our time on a one-day bike trip around the island.

The story actually begins at about 7pm the night before. We were debating when and how to get there and though we originally planned to throw our bikes in the car and drive the night before, after examining some maps on the smartphone, we (and by we, I mean Sanghyun) decided that it would be quite feasable to ride our bikes there, as long as we left right at that moment. So, already dusk, we hopped on our bikes, fortunately we're fairly well rigged up with blinking lights on the back and flash lights on the front, and made our way to Seoul Station to hop on the AREX train to Geomam station.

Once at Geomam station, we followed the Ara Waterway to the last bridge which crosses the canal. I was worried about crossing the bridge at night, but I was pleasantly surprised to find everything connected by bike path. We crossed the bridge and followed the path north. Luckily, the bike path was well paved and well lit, because it was now after 9pm.

The well paved bike path continued until the city limits of Incheon. As soon as we crossed into the city of Gimpo, the bike paths dissapeared (also helped by the fact that there is a military base which comes right up to the edge of the road as well. Here was the scary part. Intermitant street lights and no sidewalks or bike paths on a narrow two lane road at 10pm. I have a flashlight on my bike, but I realized quickly that it was way too weak. Fortunately Sanghyun's was extra strong and shone brightly enough for me to see most of the potholes before I hit them. Again, fortunately, there aren't many cars on the road at this time at night, but I was very worried about people speeding or drunk driving at that time of night on a lonley country road. Thankfully we made it to the other end and we stopped at the first motel we found along the road, which was probably only 3km but felt like 20km from the end of the bike path.

We asked at the 7/11 out front whether it would be better to stop here at the motel or continue a little more to the island, but the clerk reminded us that motels on the island were significanlty more expencive than on the mainland. So, not really wanting to be on the road anymore, plus not wanting to spend any more money than necessary, we stopped at the first love motel called 프리존 ('Free-Zone', I thought it was 'Prison') and got our room for 35,000 for the night. We could have splurged and gotten a room for 45,000 at the 'hotel' down the road, but personally I don't see much difference.

Crossing the bridge to Ganghwado 

We got a late start due to getting in so late the night before, but we woke up and headed out. It wasn't too far to the bridge to get to Ganghwado, though sidewalks were rough and the streets were full of traffic, sometimes hard to pass. Once we got to the bridge we were traffic-free thanks to this handy bike/walking path along the bridge.

View as you arrive on Ganghwado

As soon as we got to the Ganghwado side, we found ourselves on this fantastic bike path. Separated from cars by a curb and well paved and well marked.

The biggest fortress we found

If you turn right after entering you'll quickly stumble upon the first of many fortresses. I recommend shelling out the big bucks ( I forget, but I think it was less than 2,000 won) for a pass to five fortresses. You probably won't want to visit all 5, but if you visit two or three, it will still save you money in the end. As you continue north you will continue to pass fortress after fortress, so you might be glad for buying that 5 fortress pass.

Typical road on Ganghwado

After visiting three fortresses, we decided to make our way to the DMZ at the northernmost tip of the island. To get there, you need to follow the signs for the 강화평화전망대 (Ganghwa Peace Observatory). Be aware that most of the signs pointing here are not in English, so it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention!

Just checking the map... 

Heading up to the DMZ and observatory there were bike paths for at least 50% of the ride, but even when there weren't bike paths, we never felt in danger. Dispite being a holiday and all the traffic we saw before getting onto the island, up here there were very few cars at all (as you can see on the road behind us in the photos).

This is about as close as we were able to get to the DMZ

Unfortunately, upon reaching the DMZ, we were not allowed to enter because we were on bike. Apparently, according to the guard, bikes and motorcycles are not allowed into the DMZ. The soldier suggested that we take the bus, but when we asked when it passed by, he said 'not often', so we gave up and instead decided to find the famous pre-historic dolmen.

Pre-historic Dolmen

A dolmen is apparently a pre-historic style tomb, and this one on Ganghwa is the most famous in Korea. Probably because it's pretty huge. There were no bike paths getting here either, but we took back roads and there were very few cars, and most of them were driving slowly as they were probably lost tourists.

Bike path back to Incheon

Finally, it was time to say good-bye to Ganghwa, though there is still so much left unseen. That just means, though, that we have a good excuse to come back again! So long for now Ganghwado!

Waiting for the train home at Geomam Station

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ride the 4 Rivers Cross-Country Cycling Road Tour

Bike path along the North Han River

If you happen to be a cyclist in Korea, you may have already realized that you've hit the jackpot. Without much fanfare, Korea has been developing its bike paths over the past few years, particularly through the 4 rivers project, and it is now possible to ride on beautiful bike paths around the country. It's the perfect way to take in Korea's beautiful scenery without having to deal with tour companies, traffic on highways, or overwhelming numbers of tourists at the top destinations around the country.

Free bike rental at Yangsu Station on the Jungang Line

If the power compels you, you can start in Incheon at the Ara sea lock and ride all the way down to Busan, a total of 633km. But, for those who aren't ready for a week or more of intense bike riding, anyone can take advantage, either by taking your own bike for a day trip or by renting bikes at many free bike rental stations. To rent a bike, just be sure to bring proper identification!

Bike path signage near Yangpyong Station

While on the paths, you'll discover that they are, for the most part, very well maintained with plenty of signage, often in both English and Korean so you will hopefully never get lost!

Being able to read Korean will help at times though...

A steep hill before Ipobo

The terrain differs from trail to trail, but as most of the trails follow the rivers closely,  you'll find that it rarely gets difficult. Occasionally, the paths must stray off the rivers and that's when you might find yourself on a steep hill or following a road with car traffic. As you can see above, though, they tend to be country roads with few cars, though.

Train tunnel turned bike tunnel

Another neat feature of certain trails is how they have been converted from their original uses. Several trails were once train routes. It was pretty ingenious of them to convert these old tracks into bike paths. The flat land was already there, and so were the tunnels! It can be really refreshing to pass through one of these cool (both temperature- and interest-wise) tunnels when biking through the hot summer heat!

'Certification Center' sign indicating you can stamp your passport soon!

For those who are interested in biking a lot, the most rewarding way to do it is to buy yourself a 'passport' to the 4 Rivers Cross-Country Cycling Road Tour. As you ride along the paths, you will occasionally pass signs that look like the one above. These indicate that a 'certification point' is coming up soon. A 'certification Center' is where, if you have a 'passport' you can stamp your passport to show your biking achievements.

In line to stamp a 'passport'

Certification centers look like this. They are kind of reminiscent of the British red telephone boxes. They're usually hard to miss, but if you don't know it's coming up (like if you miss the sign) you could miss it, so be sure to keep your eyes open! Inside you'll find a stamp and ink pad. Be sure to mark the right spot!

Inside the certification center

Passports can be purchased at many places around the 4 rivers cycling paths. Many bike cafes and repair shops sell them, plus some official certification centers.

My first stamp! Neungnae Station
Where to start? Anywhere! If you are living in Seoul, then the Han River would be an ideal place to go. Beginners to long distance biking may like to just start biking the length of the Han River in Seoul, or maybe going to the end of the Ara Canal in Incheon. However, as these paths crisscross the country, and many towns and cities have their own bike paths which are not affiliated with the 4 rivers project, there is no excuse not to give biking in Korea a try!

For more information, check out the following links:
4 Rivers Guide- Official English version of the guide to the 4 Rivers of Korea. Information on biking, camping, walking and more is available.
CNN Go: The US Ambassador's Guide to Biking around Korea- Yes, the US ambassador herself is even taking advantage of the amazing biking around Korea!
Discovering Korea: Cruising the Hangang on a Bicycle- Loads of info on biking in Seoul, including bike rentals.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bike trip: Bukhangang Bike Path (70km)

New bike paths just seem to be springing out of thin air these days. The Korean government is putting a lot of money into developing them, and, as they say... "If you build it, they will come." In a country this small with this many people, there will always be someone to take up on any new endeavor. Our first major bike ride of the spring was the Bukhangang Bike Path, which starts between Ungilsan Station and Yangsu Station on the Jungang Line, east of Seoul and ends in Chuncheon. The path is listed in the 4 Rivers Cross-Country Cycling Passport, which I will also write about soon.

This path for the most part is pretty easy. There are almost no large hills, just small rolling hills and flat riverside biking (see above). When the bike paths do meet roads (see below), cars and bikes are totally separated.

If you do have the passport, you can get your stamps in the red houses along the way which look like this. Kind of like a red telephone booth from England. Collecting stamps sounds a little cheesy until you start, but now my friends and I are total stamp collecting addicts. It's really addicting to show off your accomplishments in a nice little book.

We opted for the 'short cut' into Chuncheon. I kind of regret it now because the bike path ended early and we were stuck on streets and sidewalks clearly not meant for bikes. But, we did get to ride along side a tunnel that looked like this!

Our reward at the end of it all was Chuncheon Dalkgalbi! Chuncheon's most famous food!

We only hung about long enough to eat our dalkgalbi before we made our way home. This was a photo of how the last subway car (only the first and last subway cars are technically for bike riders) looked when we got on. By the time we got off, the number of bikes had doubled or trippled along the way picking up more cyclists at each station. It's great to see so many people enjoying the fresh air and great outdoors in Korea! Just beware of riding the subway with so many bikes, it can be hazardous!

Start: Ungilsan Station 운길산역 or Yangsu Station 양수역 on the Jungang Line (Yongmun train)
End: Chuncheon City (Chuncheon Station) on the Gyeongchun Line.
Other possible ending points: Gapyeong Station on the Gyeongchun Line.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Have patience...

So many things to blog about, but no time to do it. There will be blog posts, and lots of them. But just wait a little longer........