Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A quick visit to prison...

Yes, that's right, I went to prison today. More specifically, I went to Seodaemun prison history museum in Seodaemun-gu. I didn't really have very high expectations for this place before I went, but I'm so glad I did. Because we went on a Wednesday, we were able to get a (free) English tour with a volunteer tour guide. I learned so much about the Japanese occupation of Korea during the first part of the 20th century.

When Japan invaded Korea in 1907 (?), they realized quickly that they needed prisons to detain all the people who were fighting against them. By October of 1908, this prison in Seoul had been constructed, and other prisons were constructed throughout the country.

At the museum you can enter the actual rooms where prisoners where kept. The rooms don't seem so small, until you realize that they were keeping up to 40 prisoners inside at a time. People would sleep in shifts because only so many could lay on the floor at once.

You can enter the torture chambers where you can see EXTREMELY GRAPHIC life size figurines depicting the various methods of torture used by the Japanese. There is fake blood splattered on the wall and you can look at figurines being flogged, electrocuted and even being sexually abused. Then you can make your way into another building where you can (as my tour guide put it) experience 'simulated' torture. This part freaked me out.... a little too much. First she told me to stick my head into a dark hole so I could experience electrocution torture. I wasn't quite sure what she meant by this... but I also didn't want to seem disinterested in their country's history... so i stuck my head in the hole, and wound up watching a Korean man (another life size figurine) plead for his life to a Japanese soldier with a voice that sounded strangely like a villain from some old school cartoon. But the worst by far was the simulated execution room. Let me first explain their method of execution first. You were placed in a chair, with a noose around your neck, in front of a room full of Japanese soldiers. The floor would drop out from under you, and you would, of course, hang. Then your body would be dropped below, where someone would drag your dead body up the stairs and toss it into the general cemetery on the other side of the prison wall. Ok, now that you know how executions took place, I can explain the simulated execution. We entered the room and saw the chair in front of a row of Japanese soldiers. When our tour guide asked one of us to have a seat... we both looked at her like she was crazy for thinking that we would do that... I don't want to have any simulated deaths, or real deaths any time soon, thank you. A group of middle school age boys then entered the room, and she asked if one would sit in the chair. Three out of the four boys gave the woman the same look we had just given her, but one timidly sat in the chair. As soon as he sat in the chair the Japanese soldiers (life like figurines once again) began speaking. I'm sure it said something along the lines of... you're sentenced to death, now DIE. Just a guess, since I don't understand at all... and as soon as the Japanese soldier stopped talking, the chair suddenly dropped about half and inch. Just enough to make the poor poor boy in the chair actually scream out loud. He got up and walked away a little dazed. I think he was permanently traumatized for life.

Anyway, this was a really great experience for me to help me realize why there is such animosity between Korea and Japan. You can also see clearly that they have no problem demonizing the Japanese fifty years after the fact. The whole museum is reeking in anti-Japanese sentiments. Although, after seeing... quite graphically, what the Japanese did to the Korean people, I can understand why they might have those feelings too.

If you want to visit this museum, get off at Dongnimmun Station on the orange line and get out at exit 5. Walk into the park to your right, and head up the road on the right. The prison will be on your left.

I conquered Inwang Mountain (by accident)

All I wanted to do was to see a Shamanist shrine. Somehow I climbed one of the highest mountains in Seoul by accident and found no shrine. Funny how my life has been lately.

This is what I was looking for:
Guksadang which is a a shamanist shrine and some Zen rocks. They said that there was some climbing involved. So.. we started climbing.....

This was just the beginning.

We climbed and climbed ... and climbed... every step of the way hoping to find the shrine ... and cursing the darned shamans for building their temple so high up the stupid mountain... Sooo many stairs..........

But when we reached the top, we realized that not even the shamans were dumb enough to climb that high. There was no shrine. Just a nice view. Unfortunately, we were so exhausted by this point that it was a little difficult to enjoy it (note the half-dead expression on my face in the first picture). We had just managed to accidentaly climb Inwangsam, a mountain of 338 meters. This takes getting lost to a whole new level.

But, hey, at least my biologist tendencies sprang into action at the right time when I saw some interesting insects. Why is it that all the bugs here have spots? The are so strange looking?

Anyway, we climbed back down the mountain, utterly defeated by it. I hope someday I have the motivation to go back and find the shrine, but I don't think it will be this week....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting lost in Seoul and finding ___________. (Yea, so I get lost a lot, so what?)

Ok, ok, so we've been getting lost quite a bit in Seoul the past few days, but we always find something interesting in the end.

Monday we found our way to Namsangol Hanok Village. This is a small "village" of traditional houses and museams. It's located right near The Korea House, where I guess you can watch traditional dance or music for a dinner show, but I think it might be expencive. You can arrive here by getting off at Chungmuro station (exit 3 or 4) and following the signs, it's very close. We also discovered that you can take the 263 bus here too, which also passes by wangsinmi, sindang and myeongdong as well. Entrance is free, and evidently they have shows in the evening, but I haven't gone to see any of those yet. The following are some pictures from Namsangol.
Women washing thier hands in the water. Not entirely sure why yet....
Boys playing a traditional Korean board game, which I believe is called Yut Nori. It's played by throwing sticks wich tell you how many spaces to move on the board. Kim chi pots.

Anyway, that was the most exciting thing we did on Monday, other than go to see a luxury apartment and realize how the other half lives...

Tuesday was a fun filled day of walking endlessly. First thing in the morning, we headed over to the USO office near Sookmyun Women's University subway stop on line 4. The USO is supposed to be the best place to get a tour of the DMZ. We were hoping to get on a tour this week, but the next tour we could get on was not until mid august. So, we signed ourselves up for that one and headed out to start our day. We decided that we wanted to go to Yeouido and maybe see the 63 building, but we realized that from where we were, there as no easy way to get to line 5 where that stop is. Seeing as how we're both from Boston, aka a "walking city" we decided, what the hell, lets just try to walk it. We know the general direction and it doesn't look.. too far... So we started walking... and we walked.... and we walked... and we walked.. and after about an hour and a half of walking and having no idea where we were, we looked up to see a strange sight.
A Catholic church right next to a very traditional looking building. I had to investigate. We walked right by the big catholic church and headed straight for the traditional looking building. Under further examination, we realized that this, too, was a catholic church. Everything was written in Korean, but we saw an open door, so we decided to check it out. It turns out that this is a shrine to the martyrs and they even had a small museum with photos and some very graphic visuals of how the martyrs were... well.. martyred. This might be somewhere interesting to check out in Seoul, although if you can't read Korean, you're out of luck. It was kind of interesting to look at the pictures, but I feel like I missed out on most of it. I did find out the actual name of the place, though. It's the Martyrs' Shrine at Saenamteo. Please don't ask me how I got here, I don't like to think about it. Supposedly its about a 10 min walk from Yongsan Staion though.

We decided to start looking for lunch.. but we couldn't find a suitable place and we suddenly realized that we were right near the Han river. We knew that the 63 Building must be on the other side. Unfortunately there was an entire highway to cross to even just get to the river. Crossing the river hadn't quite crossed our minds yet. We walked and walked until we found a foot bridge to cross the highway. We climbed up, and saw the 63 Building in the distance.It was exactly at this moment that we realized that there was no way that we were going to get there on foot. we had already been walking for 2 hours at this point, and that bridge crossing the river is just as long as it appears, maybe even longer. And, while yes, there actually was a sidewalk... I didn't see anyone else dumb enough to cross it on foot. We gave up our quest and grabbed the first taxi we saw and got out of there. We headed over to Seoul Station... basically going back to where we started... sadly. We grabbed some lunch in the cafeteria in the Lotte Mart, and planned where to go next. We decided to head over to the COEX mall to see that (get in the air conditioning, because we were dying of the heat), then to find the Buddhist temple by there.

We made our way over to COEX with no problems. I found an entire Nintendo store, but it really wasn't as impressive as I had hoped it would be... Then we headed out and over to the Buddhist temple on the opposite side of the mall.

They didn't have any tours, or really many signs in English for me to learn more about the temple, but I did realize immediately that this is a real functioning temple. I think about half of the population of Korea is Buddhist. There were various Buddhist ceremonies taking place, so we felt a little uncomfortable entering the buildings. We just tried to peek in from the outside. I wish I knew more about Buddhism though.... Anyway, I took these pictures. I wish I could tell you more about what they are, but I really have no idea.


It's time to go shopping! Twice now this week I've happened to stop by one of Seoul's biggest outdoor shopping areas. This is the place to go. If you're looking for shoes, there are tons of street stalls selling all sorts of shoes for around 10,000 won aka $10USD. There are so many cute clothing stores, lots of American brands and Korean brands. Lots of carts in the streets selling socks and stockings (oh so many socks), purses, t-shrits, cold drinks, hot snacks, dried snacks, and anything in between. There are at least two movie theaters in this area, one near myeongdong station, and another in Lotte department store. There are all kinds of food to try here, in any price range. There are a lot of nice restaurants here, but there are plenty of cheep kimbap places and as I mentioned before, tons of street food. I saw two different mandu (dumpling) places with lines out the door waiting for a table. Maybe someday I'll go back and try it.. it must be good if they're lining up out the door. You can also just find a little bit of everything here, as this next picture illustrates. These are cartoon characters on springs. They bounced up and down from the ceiling. It was very entertaining. I actually bought myself a hello kitty key chain from this same vendor.

Oh, I also wanted to mention Lotte department store. The one by Myeongdong, although I assume that other locations would be the same, is very high class. First floor is all uber nice brands, like Gucci and Yves Saint Laruant (not positive on that spelling). Next floor up is very expensive stuff... sorry, can't remember brands.. all I know is that I was seeing shirts for more than 300,000 won, and a fur jacket for 1,500,000 won. Third floor was all nice brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco. There was at least one more floor, probably more, but I couldn't bring myself to go any further up.

Oh, and while you're in the area of Myeongdong, you should walk a few more blocks and you'll find yourself in Namdaemun market. This is a more traditional market with lots of bargaining with street sellers. (actually, this area reminded me alot of Patronato in Santiago, but with much tighter streets and a bigger variety of things to buy.) Hopefully I'll have a post about Namdaemun someday when I have more time to explore. I did manage to buy myself a set of ten (Korean.. aka metal) chopsticks... since somehow my apartment doesn't have a single pair.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Getting lost in Seoul and finding Deoksugung

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Today I decided I needed to go exploring, since the only other option was to sit around the love motel watching Korean TV and sleeping (which probably wouldn’t have worked anyway). So after a quick run to the mini-stop and the PC bang, I went back to the love motel to read my guidebook and find a good place to go. I had been thinking of something indoors because of the rain, but since it seemed to have stopped, I decided to go on a walk suggested by my book. It seemed pretty easy to get to, take line 2 to City Hall Station, transfer to line one, just one stop to Jonggak Station, and from there the book outlined a walk to see new and old shopping areas/ markets of Seoul.

Now, I’m generally very good at directions. I almost never get myself turned around. But I made my first mistake before I even got out of Wangshimni Station (station closest to my love motel, it’s a large station were three lines meet). I found Line 2, and I was so sure that I had followed the right sign to get on in the direction I wanted to go in… I got on the train, and as soon as I got to the next station I realized that I had gotten on in the wrong direction. So I got out, and was looking for somewhere to switch sides, but it looked as if I’d have to get out, and pay again. Finally I broke down and asked a guy who looked about my age… pulled out my very skillful… Shillye-jiman… um… yongugo??? I meant to at least say shillye-jiman, yongugo haseyo? I have no idea how good or bad the grammar of that is, but at least I get the point across that I want to know if he speaks English. (And I now realize that it's not yongugo, but yonggo.. didn't quite realize that at the time though) Luckly, he actually did speak pretty decent English! I asked him how to get to the other side….. Evidently you can do it. They don’t make it intuitive at all. So. Next time you are on the wrong side of the track, here is what you do. Go back up to the gate where you tap your card, but instead of using your card to get out, go over to the handicapped gate and push the help button. The gate will pop open. Then cross over to the correct entrance, and there the gate should open again. There is no need to talk to the gate, as I tried to do when it spoke to me (just trust me on this one. The gate said something to me.. I tried to answer, but just as everything seems to be lately, it was a futile effort). Just go through the gate. I have no idea how this magic happens, whether it’s a computer, or some man watching the dumb miguk getting lost and chuckling to himself before pushing the button to unlock the gate.

So I finally got to the right side of the track and got on my train. For some reason, I thought I had a long ride. I wasn’t paying attention, until I looked up and realized that I had gone one stop to far. I was so frustrated by this point (I’m not used to getting lost) I just got out and walked out of the station, and decided to walk to from there to Jonggak. I started walking and hunger was starting to get to me. I searched and searched for a place to eat. I feel so strange just sitting down and eating a meal by myself, so I was looking for someplace that would be… less awkward. I finally found a place with people eating what looked to be soup. They seated me, and I waited for a menu… finally when the waitress got to me, she just said to me samgyetang? I knew that this was a food of some sort, so I just nodded and said ne… it made my decision easier anyway. 30 seconds later, a bowl of broth with a whole small chicken was sitting in front of me. Plus some noodles on the side to throw in, plus, of course what meal would be complete without kimchi on the side. So… eating the chicken with the utensils at hand was the next challenge. I had a spoon (Korean style, metal with a long handle) and chopsticks (again, metal, Korean style). I watched the people around me, since evidently just about everyone in the whole restaurant was eating the same thing as me. It took a while, but I made my way through almost the entire chicken. I was impressed with myself. The chicken was filled with rice, garlic and ginsing. It was very good. Not spicy like a lot of Korean food. Actually, maybe a little bland, but not in a bad way. I went up to pay the bill, and she charged me 12,000 won ($12). That seemed a little steep… but then again, it was a whole chicken, so maybe that is reasonable. I do like the fact that there is no need to tip in this country though.

I then resumed my quest to get to Jonggak. I walked and walked for what seemed like an eternity, but probably wasn’t that long, when I finally got back to City Hall Station where I was supposed to get off and change to line 1, which was a good sign that I hadn’t lost myself again. When I finally figured out what street I needed to go up to go in the direction on Jonggak, I looked up and saw something completely unexpected. A huge… gate of some sort, old school style. I whipped out the guide book for some explanation.. but it had nothing… So I stared at the gate for a while and finally decided to go through. Well, it turns out it was a palace! Deoksugung Palace to be exact, the smallest of the palaces in Seoul. The entrance was 1.000 won. Seemed quite reasonable to me, so I decided to put the walking trip aside and check this out instead. As I walked in, a gentleman pulled me aside and asked if I would be interested in a guided tour in English, run by volunteers. Free Tour? Heck yea. Well, seeing as this was the English tour, and I was evidently the only wayguk in the whole palace, I got a private tour. ☺

I can’t tell you much, really about what the tour guide told me. It seems as though he is one of those people who talk a lot, but never say anything, but from what I can tell, this palace was used as a temporary palace during Japanese invasions when the larger palaces were burned. The artwork here is distinct because of the appearance of dragons and the color yellow (gold). Dragons symbolize an emperor/ empire. Korea had always been a tributary kingdom to china, sending a tremendous amount of wealth each year to the emperor of china. Somewhere near the end of the 19th century, the king of Korea declared himself an emperor, symbolically placing Korea at the same level of China, as an autonomous nation. At this time, you begin to see artwork with dragons, and even dragons with 5 claws as opposed to 3, which had always previously been reserved for China.

So anyway, moral of the story is Deoksugung is cool, and wondering around Seoul can bring many unexpected surprises.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fan Death! (Watch Out)

I have spent my whole life without relizing the inherent danger of fans, so I thought that I should enlighten the rest of the world outside of South Korea to the concept of Fan Death.

Fan death is death caused by leaving an electric fan on with the window closed for an extended period of time. The same also occurs with air conditioners. There are several theories that have been suggested by professionals how this phenomenon occurs.

1) The fan sucks the air out of the room, causing a vacuum, and therefore suffocating the poor, stupid fool who fell asleep with the fan on.

2) The cool air causes hypothermia, thus causing death.

3) The fan chops up the oxygen molecules in the room, suffocating that poor fool.

4) Some odd combination of all these factors

Several deaths every summer are declared as Fan Deaths, and thus the media proliferates this.. idea.

For more information regarding Fan Death, please visit these web sites

Oh, and as a side note. This is not just an urban legend to Koreans. This is hard science. It is taught in school, and Americans here have had to to teach it to thier students. Don't you love teaching lies?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Survival Korean

I originally wanted to go to Korea so that I could learn Korean. I've been trying to study for a while, but its hard to teach yourself. Now it seems that since I've been accepted to my job back in April, I've had much less motivation to study Korean. That doesn't make any sense to me, but that's what has happened. I have my language books, dictionaries and the rosetta stone... yet, I have been toooo lazy lately. But, the other day my darling baby cousin (who's not so little anymore) gave me her iPod shuffle, since she has a real iPod now. I've managed to survive 22 years without an mp3 player, and really had no desire for one until the past few weeks. I was origninally thinking that an iPod would be great for podcasts of NPR... since I've kind of turned into an NPR junkie since I started working in the lab. With an mp3 player, I figure I can listen to On Point and All Things Considered while walking to work... yea... I'm a geek.

As I was searching for NPR podcasts, I stumbled across something else, even more useful. Language lesson podcasts. If you go into the podcasts section of the iTunes store, you can find several different choices for studying Korean. I've started using Survival Korean. They have just the basics. Restaurants, phrases getting around. No grammar or anything complex. I guess that's where I need to start at this point, since I'm going to be arriving in about 5 days... scarrryy... haha. They also have PDF files that you can download to accompany the audio lessons from, but I haven't gotten around to trying those yet. Oh well. Everyone else I talk to there doesn't seem to speak much Korean. But anyway. I just had to share my new discovery!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Churches of Santiago

I just wanted to post some pictures of some of the churches we visited in Santiago. I'll make a seperate post for the Templo Votivo de Maipú. I'm tired and it's late, so I'm not going to write much here today. Just enjoy some pictures.

These two photos are of the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago. It is located in the center right on one side of La Plaza de Armas

This photo was taken in the inside of the chapel near the top of Cerro San Cristobal, right to the side of the Virgin.

This church is in Las Condes, and is right to the side of Centro Artisenal de Los Dominicos. I believe that the the Church is called Los Dominicos... but don't quote me on that one...

A side note to my Korean restaurant in Santiago...

So my friend pointed out to me... that the name of this restaurant is 평 양면 옥- Pyong Yang Muyn Ok.... another way to transliterate this would be P'yongyang.. or in other words the capital of North Korea... I wonder if they are North Koreans that run the restaurant? And if they are... how on god's green earth did they wind up in Chile of all places?

That's just my random thought for the day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Korean Experience in Santiago/ Encontrando un poco de Corea en Chile

After our visit with the Virgin, we decided to take a trip down to Patronato for some tasty Korean food, since two out of the four of us had never tried Korean food (I was obviously not one of the two). We had to introduce them to the wonders of bulgogi.

While I don't think this was the best bulgogi I have ever had, I must give the restaurant props for having a super cool atmosphere. I really felt like I was in a traditional Korean restaurant. We took off our shoes, and sat on pillows on the floor around the table and they brought us over a little grill to cook our own bulgogi on. The food was good, I only say that it wasn't the best bulgogi I've ever had because I've had some really good bulgogi before. Still definitely worth trying though. And some of the side dishes that they brought over were excellent. Still don't know what they were, which is probably a good taste of what's to come when I get to Seoul next week (YIKES) but definitely tasty.

If you want to go try for yourself next time you're in Santiago, here is the address.

평 양면 옥- Pyong Yang Muyn Ok
Santa Filomena 170

Santiago, Chile

Despues de nuestra visita a Cerro San Cristobal, decidimos ir para comer comida Coreana en honor de mi viaje a corea que viene pronto. Un amigo conocía un lugar en Patronato para comer comida Coreana en un estilo muy authentico. Dos amigos mios nunca habían probado comida Coreana, entonces tuvimos que presentarles a la maravilla de bulgogi.

Admito que este bulgogi no fue el mejor que he probado. Pero, igual, he probado bulgogis muy buenos. Lo que me gusto de este restaurante fue el ambiente bien Coreano. Sacamos los zapatos y nos sentamos en almohadas en el suelo, y nos trayeron una cocina pequenita para cocinar el bulgogi. Supongo que esto es la manera traditional..... voy a ver en una semana mas!! (Que miedo!!!!!!) Todavia no he encontrado un restaurante asi en USA.

En fin, sugería este restaurante para tener una experiencia Coreana mientras está en Sudamerica. Se ubica aqui:

평 양면 옥- Pyong Yang Muyn Ok
Santa Filomena 170

Santiago, Chile

Cerro San Cristobal

During our trip in Santiago, we decided to head up to the top of Cerro San Cristbal (Saint Cristobal Hill). This is one of the tallest hills within the city and a huge tourist attraction. Somehow we missed out on this one last time. Last time around we only managed to go to the zoo near the bottom (enter through Barrio Bellavista). There is also a Japanese garden but we still haven't managed to make it there yet. That we'll just have to save for the next trip.

This time two of our friends took us up the Teleferico (Gondola) to the top to see the Virgin. The ride up the Teleferico was fun (as long as you don't mind heights) and it gave a great view of the city... although the view probably would have been much better had it not been for the smog. luckily when we went up it had rained a few days earlier so the smog was not too bad. Had we tried to go up on the day we left, when there hadn't been any rain for almost two weeks, we would not have been able to see a thing. I bet the view is spectacular in the summer when there isn't so much smog.

Once you reach the top of the gondola, you can go up a little path that takes you to the stairs that lead up to the statue of the Virgin Mary. Before we climbed up though, we first stopped to play with the police dogs that the Carabineros (Chilean Police) had for show up on the hill. The dogs were very friendly and Sarah sort of befriended one of them. I on the other hand, chose to keep my distance. I'm not a dog person I guess.

Then we saw a sign for mote con huesillos. This is a typical Chilean treat that consists of husked wheat with peaches in a peach juice (or maybe its more of a peach syrup). Evidently it is generally made from dried peaches that have been rehydrated for several hours, but what we ate was probably made from canned peaches. Well, it was probably the wrong season for mote anyway. It was still quite yummy, if not a little too sweet. I was only able to eat/drink half of mine before I had to give the rest away. But, it's still worth a try.

After our mote, we decided it was time to conquer the stairway up to the Virgin. On our way up we had an encounter with Jesus. Albeit it was only his head....

At the top though we found many worshipers crowding around the base of the Virgin to pray and to see inside where there was something to see, although I never quite figured out what it was. Praying at the feet of a 22 m Virgin is not really my style, but the view was great, and the sunset was amazing. Thanks to the pollution, the sunsets in Santiago are truly spectacular with many bright colors.

We then headed back down the stairs and over to a small chapel to the side of the Virgin. The chapel is definitely worth visiting. It was all stone with carvings (or maybe they were paintings) in the walls. It had a very medieval feel to it.

After that it was getting dark and we headed back down the Teleferico back to the bottom of the hill. We then decided to grab some Korean food for dinner in Patronato, but... I'll save that for another post.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Skiing in the Andes/ Cuando fuimos a la nieve

Last Monday we decided to take a little trip out of Santiago and go skiing in the Cordillera (aka, the Andes), or as the Chileans say, we "went to the snow". I'll admit it was a little pricey, but it was well worth it. The skiing was, by far, much better than anything I have ever seen in VT. I wish I had had more time to explore the mountain more.

If it sounds strange to you that I went skiing in June, keep in mind that in the southern hemisphere, it is winter right now. It almost never snows in the city, but since the city is surrounded by tremendous mountains, its not hard to find snow in a short trip up the hill.

There are many ways to get up to the ski hills outside of Santiago. We used a company called Skivan. We did have a few small equipment issues, but the driver was excellent and I thought the prices were fair. There are many other transport services that will bring you up into the cordillera to ski as well.

We went to Valle Nevado to ski. There are several other mountains, but Valle Nevado was suggested to us by more than one person. We wound up paying a few dollars extra, but I didn't mind at all. I will say that this is not a hill for beginners. There are technically three green trails. One is a cut-through trail.. so very short, one is a nice green trail, and the third is not quite so gentle, fine for me, but my friend who is a bit less experienced than I am skiing, fell quite a few times and found it to be very steep for a beginner. I thought the mountain it was perfect for my ski level, which I'd call intermediate. I generally stay on the blue square trails when I'm skiing in the states. There are also many advanced trails at Valle Nevado, but I didn't dare go on those, since I didn't feel like testing the Chilean medical system on the second to last day of my trip.

What made this so much better than my experiences in Vermont and New Hampshire? I would say it had to be the lack of ice. If anyone has any experience skiing in the Northeast, you know that while most trails tend to start off nice early in the day, it's quite commong for trails to become iced over by the afternoon. If there is one thing that I can't stand about skiing it would be ice. I get so freaked out by ice sometimes that it really impairs my ability to ski, because I am too afraid to go down steep hills. I found that without the fear of ice, I was able to conquer hills that would freak me out completely in Vermont.

The only downside that I found to skiing in the cordillera was the commute. Not the distance, because it was really only a little over an hour from Las Condes to the mountain, but the absolute fear I felt driving up and down the mountain. So many sharp twists and turns, not to mention the sharp drops over the side of a mountain if the driver were to screw up. Our driver was excellent, and drove nice and slow, but still, I spent the entire ride home praying to every deity I could think of to spare my life if the van were to fall off the cliff. But. Still. I'd do it again. It's worth it.

The one thing that really made an impression on me was the lack of trees. I mean, I knew that there were no trees, A because of the altitude and B because of the very little amount of soil that is available. Its kind of the limiting reagent to the equation. But still, its strange to ski without trees on all sides.

I'll leave you all with some lovely pictures that I took while skiing.

El lunes pasado, fuimos a la nieve para esquiar. Me encantó. Estoy seguro que los lugares de esqui en la Cordillera son muchos mejores de cualquier lugar de esqui cerca de mi en el noreste de los EEUU. Porque? Porque no hay hielo. La cosa que me carga de esquiar es el hielo. Me da demasiado miedo cuando esquio por el hielo, y creo que affecta mi capacidad de esquiar. Sin hielo, tengo mucho mas confianza de mis aptitudes.

Fuimos a Valle Nevado. Nos costó 2 o 4 mil mas, pero mucha gente nos sugerio este lugar, entnoces, creo que valió la pena ir para alli. La unica cosa que no me gustó de la cordillera fue el camino. Yo sentí que iba a morirme cada vez que doblabamos una esquina. Pasé todo el camino de vuelta orando a cualquier dios que me escuchara que no me muera. Pero valió la pena.

El otro problema de Valle Nevado es que es un lugar para gente que sabe esquiar. Para mí, fue perfecto, pero para mi amiga, ella encontró el lugar my dificil. Solo hay 3 pistas para precipiantes. Mi amiga encontró Valle Nevado muy dificil.

Entonces, en fin, recomendo Valle Nevado, pero no vaya alli para aprender esquiar.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chile... where oh where to begin??

Today I have returned from my two week voyage to Chile. All I can say is that my friends are incredible and I wish I could have stayed longer. Our friend Oscar let us stay in his house for the entire two weeks of the trip, and his parents and sister were incredibly accommodating to us. I hope that we did not overstay our welcome, staying for so long there, but I really felt like I was at home there. They are all such wonderful people. 
I did so much over the past two weeks that I will probably be posting from now until the day I leave for Korea to get everything up here. Some things to look forward to: Skiing in the Andes Mountains, Cerro San Cristobal, Various Churches, A Korean Experience in Chile, and who knows what else might come out too. 
No more blogging for me tonight... it's sleepy time for me.