Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jogyesa Temple

This upcoming weekend is Buddha's Birthday, which is a huge event in Korea. To celebrate the holiday, there was huge lantern festival on Jongno, but unfortunately because of other plans I seemed to miss every event that went on. I was so disappointed that I went to Insadong/ Jogyesa temple Tuesday night to try to catch any remnants of the festival. First stop was Jogyesa Temple.
The place was totally decked out in lanterns. It was really a spectacular sight. I also sat in for a few minutes on a prayer service that was going on inside one of the temple buildings. I took this photo (from the outside through a window, don't worry). I sat right by this Buddha and listened to the monk's chanting. It was really sort of surreal.

These white lanterns are for the deceased.

After walking around the temple for a while, we headed to Insadong for dinner. we had a sort of more traditional meal of dwingchan jjigae, beef and kimchi and lots and lots of side dishes. Then we headed down to the chongyechong to see if any of the giant lanterns were still down there.

Evidently they had already been taken down. But, it was still really pretty down there. And even at 10:30 at night there were so many people!

Here's me!

Incidentally, on the way to the stream, my boyfriend convinced me to go to one of those photo booths... well.. here it's not really a photo booth, it's more of a store full of photo booths. He got so excited when we passed by that there was no way I could have said no. We paid 5,000 won and it took 6 photos. They had all sorts of hats and wigs to wear. Then, on top of that, once you took the photos you could decorate them and make them look ridiculous and cutesie. It was a little over the top, but it was so quintessential Korea that I guess it had to happen eventually. I feel a little more Korean every day..... And starting tomorrow, I'll be starting classes at a Korean language hagwon... so maybe I'll actually be able to speak with some sort of fluency instead of stammering over numbers and reading dialogues. ^^

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Revisit to Namsan

I went to Namsan for the second time this past Saturday. "Nam" means South and "San" is mountain, so literally this place is 'south mountain'. Nowadays it's not that far south, it's sort of in the middle of Seoul. But it is south of downtown/ the original historical center of the city. At the top of Namsan is Seoul Tower (or Namsan Tower). It's basically a space needle of sorts where you can go to get a great view of the city. Its actually not that tall, but it doesn't really need to be, since it's already on top of a hill.

I actually went to Namsan back in February, but I didn't have my camera on me, so I never got around to posting about it. Saturday afternoon I went again for the second time, and this time I made sure to bring my camera (the new spiffy one). The first time we took a cab half way up the hill, then walked the rest of the way up the hill. On the way down, we took a bus (one of the yellow ones) to the bottom of the hill. This time around we decided to take the cable car. We got a round trip ticket, but I don't really think it was worth it. I think maybe it's worth it to go one way, just to say that you have done it, but really, for the minute long ride it's not worth the 7,500 won, when you could take a bus one way for 900 won.

Around the base of the tower the fence is covered in locks. It has become a tradition for lovers to place a lock with a message onto the fence. I think this is actually a really cool idea.

After walking around the base of the tower, we then headed up to the top. I keep finding more and more uses for me to use my combined digital and optical zoom. Here is Chunghwadae (The presidential "Blue House") from atop of Seoul Tower with the 48x zoom. A little fuzzy from the glass, but hey, beggars can't be choosers.

I was even able to locate my house in Sindang-dong from the tower. Pretty incredible actually....

If anyone is interested in visiting Namsan, to take the cable car up the mountain, go to Myeongdong exit 1 and walk straight and up the hill for about 10 minutes. The cable car building will be on the right after some nice looking restaurants. The cable car is 7,500 round trip, but be aware that it's only about a minute long ride. To go up to the top of the tower, the price is 7,000 won for a regular adult admission. There are combination passes that include dinner at the top and the prices actually sounded fairly reasonable considering that you'd be eating on top of Seoul. It'd probably be a nice place to go for an anniversary or something like that. Anyway, if you're visiting Seoul, this is a must see, since it is one of the most well known places in the city.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Evening At The Ball Game (aka: My Camera Is Awesome)

Sunday night, me and a few friends went to see a baseball game over at the Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Olympic Park (get off at Sports Complex station on line 2). We went to see a game between the LG Twins (home team) and the Kia Tigers. It's been a long while since I've seen a baseball game and though I'm not sure how much of the actual game I watched, but it was still fun for me. In case you're wondering, the Tigers won, 8-2.

The game started at 5pm, so we arrived at about 4:20 to buy tickets. There were plenty of men and women outside the stadium selling tickets that they said were real, but we didn't trust them. We went up to the ticket counter and stood in the long line and got our tickets. We were going to buy the mid range tickets (a whole whopping 12,000 won) but by the time we got up there, those seats were all sold out. So, we got the cheapest seats which were only 6,000 won each.

At the stadiums here, you can buy all you want outside the stadium and bring it in. There is no one checking bags as you go in the door. We each bought some beer and water (service-uh), and my friends picked up some Burger King and we headed in side.

It didn't take long to find the yellow section, but we quickly realized that we had no assigned seats (no one does) and it wasn't going to be easy to find a seat (nevermind four seats together) We wandered all around the yellow section, but we found nothing. There was no division between the yellow section and the other sections so we walked all the way around the stadium looking for some seats... or at least a good place to camp out and sit, as many people were doing. But, I should have known going with my friend Alicia, we were going to find seats. She is usually very quiet and always does whatever everyone else wants to do... unless she's out in public and she wants something done. Then she won't stop til she gives up. She walked us all around the stadium til she found some people who had spread out with their bags and food between them. She went over and asked them to move their things. They looked annoyed (which is really rude, as far as I'm concerned, when there were probably hundreds of people like us wandering around looking for seats), but they moved their things... Well, almost all their things, but they refused to move the chair they were using as a table to hold their KFC chicken. Then they pointed out to us that there were seats in front of them that they were using to hold their backpacks (how much stuff do you REALLY need to bring to a baseball game anyway??). They moved their backpacks and we got 4 seats together, in the green section, which was maybe the 9,000 won seats... or something, I forget. Either way, we were around left field, but they were decent seats though.

We had originally planned on rooting for the home team, which is the LG Twins. We realized once we sat down that we had sat with the Kia Tigers fans. There is almost an invisible line that divides the fans of the two teams in the stands. I felt as though it would have been a little uncomfortable to root for the Twins among so many Tigers fans... so I just decided to become a Tigers fan instead. It's not like I really care who wins anyway, but it's more fun when you cheer for someone...

First thing I noticed at the stadium was the crazy fans. Everyone has these inflatable sticks which they pound together and wave and sway with the various cheers that are recited for each player each time they are at bat. If I go again, I need these things!

While I was watching the game... I swear... at least... for some of the time, I spent much more time playing with my new camera. My Canon Powershot SX200. I decided this would be the best time to test out the 12x zoom. My camera also has a 4x digital zoom, which I sort of forgot about. So, anyway, I found that when you zoom out, it stops at 12x, the end of the optical zoom. But, if after it stops, you push it more, it moves into the digital zoom mode. Now, granted, I wouldn't want to use the digital zoom if I were doing anything important, but boy, was it fun to play with. 12x optical zoom x 4x digital zoom = 48x maximum zoom. Do you know how close you can get to the players using this? Well... let me just show you. And let me emphasize that these photos were not cropped, or edited at all, these are the original photos.

Just some shots to give you an idea of where I was sitting.

Maximum zoom: 48x
Pretty clear... I think, at least

30x zoom... I think

The cheerleaders (yea they have cheerleaders at baseball games here) were in the stands along the 3rd base line. This is the full 48x zoom. See if you can find where they are in the photo:

Monday, April 20, 2009


I don't know much about this group, but they have two of the biggest songs out right now. They're catchy... as is most K-pop... ^^

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Just because they are white, doesn't mean they speak English...

I went to see a movie last night. We were even on the CGV website to find a good movie to watch (it's kind of the wrong time of year to find a "good" movie). Anyway, we found one that looked like a fighting/martial arts movie that looked pretty cool. We even watched the preview, but it was dubbed over in Korean, but, we figured, hey, they're white, aka, it's a movie we can watch and understand. We couldn't figure out the title... It didn't seem Korean, but we couldn't translate it either... but, whatever.

We got our tickets, we sat down, and we were watching watching, and all of a sudden the actors start talking... but... it wasn't English.... it was French. We both looked at each other with the same thought. Good god, we just paid 7,000 won to watch a French movie subtitled in Korean. Well, it was an action movie, so we watched. The fight scenes were cool, but we still have no idea what the movie was about.... I tried my best to read the subtitles, since my Korean is far better than my French. Unfortunately, my Korean reading skills are painfully slow, hard as I try to improve on this skill. I was only able to translate one entire sentence in the whole movie. -_-

Anyway, if you get a chance to see this movie with ENGLISH subtitles, it's a pretty decent movie.... I think....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Kitchen Adventure....

Well, I've been talking about cooking Korean food at home since... I don't know... maybe August... but I finally just got around to doing it for the first time tonight (and no, I'm no including cheese ramyon in that). I was rather inspired by reading Crazy Korean Cooking . I first decided to make 파전 (p'ajeon: scallion pancake), but then I decided to make some 참치찌개 to go with it while I was actually in my kitchen.

I used the recipe from Crazy Korean Cooking as a base, but then added my own ingredients to try to eat what I'm used to eating at my favorite little kimbab restaurant (which serves a lot more than just kimbab).

First I went and and bought some tuna... They have special tuna just for making jjigae.... luckily I noticed the English writing... I was just kind of staring at the 20 different kinds of tuna and had no idea what to buy...
I fried up the tuna for a few minutes along with some green chili peppers. This is going to be spicy!!
Here's my Kimchi and peppers. I only added in two peppers... all that kimchi should be enough spice... I did throw in that whole bag of kimchi though.

Here's my tofu and my ddok (rice cake in the bag there). Threw those in too, but I think next time I won't throw them in so soon. Didn't seem to matter too much... Oh, and tofu is REALLY cheap. That whole box there was 400 won (30 cents?) The rice cakes were about 2,000 won ($1.50USD?)

Threw all that (not all the rice cakes though) into the pot with the tuna and chilies. Added two and a half cups of water and let it boil.

While that was cooking, I made some p'ajeon. P'ageon is Korean scallion pancake. Is that a scallion in the photo? It looks huge.. is it a leek or something? Anyway... whatever it is, I cooked it up and made a pancake with it. It tasted right. I added one cup of flour, one cup of water, two eggs and a pinch of salt. Mix it together like you would any pancake batter. I added the onion to the batter, but I wonder if it's better to add it to the batter once it's in the pan. Oh, I also threw in another green chili, very finely chopped. Got to give it some spice!

It took a few tries to get it to look like what you see here. The hardest part was getting it to cook all the way through. Though, I'm infamous for letting that happen to breakfast pancakes too. Not that I've cooked those in 10 years either though...

I let the jjigae simmer for a little while while I fixed everything else up.

Anyway, here's the final product! Dip the p'ajeon in the soy sauce for more enjoyment and deliciousness. You'll maybe note the absence of rice... I wanted rice.. I really wanted rice... but I only have one pot for soup and rice... and since my jjigae was in the soup pot, I had no pot to make my rice in.... got to find a better solution to that problem.....

Here's my own recipe for everything I made... note* this is my first time making it, so you can choose to trust my recipe if you want, but it hasn't been tested for generations or anything....

Chamchi Jjigae (tuna stew)
  • 1-2 cans of tuna (preferably jjigae tuna, if available)
  • Small bag of kimchi aprox 500 g
  • Small container of tofu
  • ddok (Korean rice cake, preferably the flat round kind for soup) if available and desired
  • Chili peppers 1-4 depending on how spicy you like it. If you are saving for leftovers, this will make your jjigae much spicier in the following days.
  • Any vegetables you like (mushrooms, potatoes, onions, zucchini are all good options)
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Fry tuna for 5 minutes in the bottom of the pan with oil.
Add kimchi and fry for another 5 minutes or so.
Add water, chilies, vegetables and let boil.
Add tofu and ddok and let simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Consistency should be quite thick. This is really more of a stew than a soup. This is my favorite Korean food, so even if you can't make it yourself, you should try to eat it at your local Korean restaurant. :-)

P'ajeon (Scallion Pancake)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • Chopped scallion
  • 1-2 finely chopped chili peppers (optional)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
Mix flour, water and eggs in a bowl and make sure that there are no clumps.
Add chopped scallion to the batter.
Pour batter into frying pan with oil.
Make sure the pancake is thin. Otherwise, it will not cook inside. I found I had better luck with the big ones than with small ones. Use a big pan and make big pancakes... 2 laddelfulls of batter.
Flip your pancake once top is starting to cook, and before it starts to burn on the bottom. (use two spatulas if you have them)
Once both sides are cooked, you can eat and enjoy. Be sure to dip in soy sauce for the best effect.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The letter 'V'

One of my biggest pet peeves of a Korean accent is the letter V (although the letter Z is a close runner up). For some reason 85% of my students pronounce the letter V like 'vui'. It has always bothered me, but the other day one of my preschoolers finally pushed me over the edge on this one when she (one of my best students in that class) turned to me and said "Teacher, not Vee, Vui".

Unfortunately, the mispronunciation of the letter V is also propagated in the media. For example, here is the song 'L.O.V.E' by the Brown Eyed Girls. They only get the letter V correct about half the time they say it...

And if you're curious about the pronunciation of the letter Z, they pronounce it as a J. Normally this wouldn't be such a problem, but when you're teaching kids, zoos come up quite often. Now, when you replace a J with a Z in the word zoo, it becomes Joo (aka Jew). With my most advanced class/oldest class I tried to explain what Jew meant so that they would realize how big of a difference there was between the word zoo and the word Jew. Unfortunately, it was completely lost on them. I might as well have been trying to explain Norse gods, because to them it 's just as obscure. Not to many Jews fled to Korea in the diaspora, evidently. They've never heard of Judaism.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A walk about town...

I really did nothing to celebrate Easter, but that just seems like how I've been living my life in the past few years. I did, though, take a nice long walk in the opposite direction that I usually head. We got on the Chongyechong further down near Seongsugyo Bridge (I might have that bridge name wrong... but it's something like that) and walked for a bit down that ways. We were hoping that we'd see some cherry blossoms down there and beat the crowds in Yeoido. No such luck though... it was still kind of grey and brown looking down there...

There were twice as many bikes as people, and it was actually a little scary, dodging bikes when the bike path wasn't separate from the walking path.

Finally we came to the point where the Cheongyechong empties out into the Hangang. We crossed the stream on a pedestrian bridge and followed the Han east in the direction of Ttukseom.

We walked for a while down there. We were actually hoping we'd see some cherry blossoms, but no such luck... it was still a little dead over there. After walking for about an hour, we found a park and sat down to take a rest. Here's some photos from the park:

Rock Climbing Wall... never seen one of these in Seoul before...

After sitting around here for a while deciding what to do next, we decided to get on the subway to cross the river (for lack of a way to cross by foot) and head to our friend's house in Jamsil. She lives a 3 minute walk from the lake in Seocheon.. aka where Lotte World is. We knew we'd be able to find some cherry blossoms over there... though it was getting to be dusk. We didn't know where the subway was, but we just walked a little more and found ourselves at line 7, Ttukseom Resort... though, we were really hoping for line 2. Before we got on, we caught a good glimpse of Olympic Stadium from across the river.

We got to Jamsil and we had to walk around the lake to get to our friend's house. Here we finally found our cherry blossoms. You can see the Lotte World castle in the background here too. No Disney ripoffs here...
Here's another Lotte World sight. The giant raccoon. Doesn't he just make you need to check out Lotte World??
After some coffee (actually, I had a smoothie, I don't like caffeine) the sun went down and we headed through my friend's neighborhood. There is a local Buddhist temple here. The whole place was all decked out in lanterns lit up. Never seen this before around here. But there are lanterns strung up all over the place? What's this all about? They went up a week or two ago around Wangsimni too (but those ones don't glow like these). Is there some holiday that I don't know about? I know Buddha's birthday is coming up in May, but this is April...

Anyway, they were still cool to look at!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Finally a decision...

I've finally decided to buy the Canon Powershot SX200. It's small and compact, but it has a 12X zoom, and more importantly, it has full manual controls, plus aperture and shutter priority. I know it's not a perfect camera. People's main concerns seem to be the flash that pops up automatically (though I found in the shop if you cover it with your finger you can keep it from popping up.. as long as you don't move your finger) and that it has no viewfinder. But... I've probably used the viewfinder on my camera about 2 times in the 7 years I've had it... so... really I'm not concerned about that. The cover for the USB port seemed quite flimsy, but I guess that if it did fall off, it wouln't be the end of the world. The one on my camera is fairly flimsy too, but it's never given me a problem over the years....The controls, though, seem ultra easy to use when I tested it in the store, and that's my biggest concern with cameras. I don't want to be searching through menus for 5 minutes to take one shot.

I went to the Canon shop in Shincheon on Saturday. They were sold out, but I put my name down for the shipment coming in on Monday. It's going to be 468,000 won, wich is $351.00 USD today with the exchange rate. So.. basically I get the same price. I may get a memory card with it, though, which in the US, I guess you can't get for free anymore. My friend bought an IXUS while we were there, and they gave her a 4GB (!!!) for free!(!!!). I'm hoping they'll do the same for me. I'll def buy an extra battery to go with the camera, since I don't want to risk running out of juice on a trip. Those cost about 47,000. I wonder if I can get that cheaper online or at Yongsan? I'm also wondering if I can get a small tripod... but thats something else I'd be better off getting in Yongsan... but... would I really use a tripod though???

Here's the CNET inital preview of the camera:

Friday, April 10, 2009

그림자 살인: Private Eye | Watching subtitled movies in Seoul... round 2

Thursday evening I got the chance to see 그림자 살인 (Private Eye) at Gangnam Cinus G. The movie was quite entertaining, actually. It's a thriller set during the Japanese occupation, though the year is never specified. I won't reveal anything about the plot, but it's definitely worth seeing. I was very happy again with the English subtitles. Here is the Korean trailer.

Private Eye Korean Movie Trailer - Click here for the most popular videos

I must say, though, that I was rather disappointed in the accessibility of this movie. I went with a Korean friend, so he called the cinema and found movie times for us. When we got to the theater, there was no sign that said which movie or which theater was showing the English subtitles. There was no English title for the movie. And I thought to myself this: if I spoke no Korean, and read no hangul (which makes up for the vast majority of foreigners here) how would I know that this movie was had English subtitles.

If you want to make Korean movies more accessible, why not write on the sign board that there are English subtitles available.. in English?? Is that really so hard? I've seen English titles for Korean movies that don't have subtitles... so why not write it for the ones that DO have subtitles.

I appreciate the efforts that the government has put into subbing these movies. Really, I do. They made nice little pamphlets that I found in the theater with directions to both the theater in Gangnam and the theater in Myongdong. But, if you can't put movie times in English on the website, provide even a paragraph summary of the movie, or if NOTHING else, make sure that browsers can appropriately display the hangul on your site, so that those of us who CAN read it can figure out the movie times and disseminate the information among friends. There are too many problems with the Korean website, and the English Service website provides nothing but the title of the current movie and directions to the theater... including plenty of directions for how to park... even though we know that only about .1% of foreigners have a car...

Oh, and that brochure that I found at the cinema for the English language service... had no reference to the English Service website, only a reference to the Korean site. And, speaking no Korean it'd be nearly impossible to find the English Service from their home page. Good job Korea. Yet again you work so hard and spend so much money to do something right, but you screw up the easy part....

The English service has been around for less than a month... so I'm going to hope that they pull themselves together. I wish there were some feedback link on their site, but no, yet again, another failure.

Anyway, don't let my negativity about the system keep you from seeing the movie. It's definitely worth it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring is here! I have proof!

Flowers are blooming! I took this photo Saturday in Anguk! I want to go to the Cherry Blossom Festival!!

Temps are wonderful too! In the mid 70's and high 60's for the rest of the week! Life is good! Except I realize that almost my whole wardrobe is winter clothes.... hmmm

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Raiding Youtube for Children's Videos

Tonight I've been raiding Youtube searching for good Sesame Street videos to show to my preschool kids during lunch/playtime. I found some old classics and some new ones. Hope you enjoy these as much as I have! Here are some of the coolest I found:

And.. my personal favorite from the old school days:

Then there's this one which I won't show to my kids because I don't want to hear the parent complaints about my giving children nightmares about child molesters.... how on earth was this one ever broadcast on Sesame Street in the USA??? This HAS to be some sort of sick joke... right??? Right????

Feel free to check out my playlist on my youtube profile. You can find me under smileyjkl

A North Korean's Responce to the North Korean Missile Launch

To read an English translation of a former North Korean citizen's blog about the current missile launch, please check out Ask A Korean, which is an excellent site that anyone with any interest in Korea should read on a regular basis anyway. If you speak Korean, you can check out the original blog entry here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Korean Class April Field Trip: Anguk Area and Making Pottery

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The rocket has been launched.....

North Korea launched it's rocket today at 11:30am local time. Though the contents of the rocket are still unknown, according to CNN it has cleared Japan, and there was no need to shoot the missile down. You can read the full article here:
I'll update with more info when I have it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Dog Meat Experience...

Well, I've been talking about it for long enough, it's about time I finally did it. I finally ate dog meat. I mean, how many chances in life do you get to eat man's best friend, right? So, I was invited to tag along with some other folks from my Korean class who were also going to try 보신당 (Boshintang- dog meat soup) on Tuesday night. Turns out there was a restaurant about 3 minutes from my house, but I never bothered to read the Korean to realize what it was.

First thing that hit me when we entered was the smell. It absolutely reeked in that place, and I have a terrible sense of smell. I don't want to know what it smelled like to folks with a more acute sense of smell...

First we had to order. We had to choose between dog meat soup or some sort of dog meat salad. Our Korean friend told us to go for the soup. I... had already eaten dinner... I didn't really expect to eat much of it... so I didn't really care. They brought us some side dishes of some sort of oil, red sauce, mustard and sesame (?). We mixed it together and that was for dipping our dog.

Then finally our dog soup arrived. It didn't look that weird, except that the meat had something that looked like skin (think of chicken skin) hanging on to it. I built up all my courage and finally bit in. And, you know, it was... alright. Actually the meat tasted more like really tender beef.. like maybe a pot roast or something.. The soup on the other hand had no taste at all. I picked through, ate what meat I could find that wasn't covered in fat or skin (?) and left the rest to the side... I've heard from others that the soup can actually be quite good. I think we picked a bad restarutant. But, hey, it was only 5,000 won for that big bowl, so I think it was worth it for the experience. Now I can scratch that one off the list of things to do here.

So... why do they eat dog anyway? I mean... aren't there so many more acceptable animals to eat? Well, according to Koreans, there are many health benefits to eating dog meat. It's supposedly very good for your health. If you can read Korean, this poster explains all the medical reasons to eat 보신당. (Anyone care to translate?)

I, on the other hand, choose to believe that this is what Koreans convinced themselves of while they had no other food to eat during the war and after the war when the times were hard. This... (ahem) idea... still exists today, since it really wasn't all that long ago that times were so hard that Koreans were eating dog meat. If you care for my two cents.. or twenty won that is.