Thursday, October 28, 2010

Danny + Apples = Destiny!

This seems like some halarious joke that someone is playing on Danny. Despite his hate of eating a crisp, cold apple, Danny seems like he is is destined to be the posterboy for apples. So many strange apple experiences have happened here in Korea, and luckily we finally got to see the result of Danny's apple photoshoot. Ladies and Gentlemen, HERE IT IS...

Danny's on a TRUCK! AWESOME!!! Wow, he sure does look good if I say so myself, and so do the apples! ; ) I just need to carry my camera around with me at all times in case I see this fantastic truck rumble by. Maybe Danny can sign the truck, and we can sell it for money, and he will become rich because of his apple photos, and then we can buy all the apples we want in Korea, and THEN WE CAN RULE THE WORLD!!!! (Ok, sorry I got carried away again.) Well, it's just another day in Korea... more strange adventures to come!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Korea in the Fall ~ Sobaek Mountain

My last post had a lot of writing, sorry, so to balance that out, I thought I would show a lot of pictures this time. Today was the first truly chilly day, so I'm glad I'm doing this fall post before snow is on the ground. The more we are here, the more beautiful I think Korea is... especially in the fall.
Danny and I joined my co-teacher, Mrs. Byeon, and her family as they climbed Gungmangbong mountain in the Sobaek National Forest.
It was soo beautiful with all the trees changing, and I would have to say it is the most beautiful place I've been in Korea so far.

As we hiked to the peak, we saw a lot of these stone piles which is a common site in Korea. My co-teacher said that people pile the stones to represent prayers everytime they come to a place. I think it is mostly a Buddhist thing, but I think the balancing stones are really beautiful to look at all over Korean hiking trails.

This hike let us see tons of little waterfalls and red, yellow, orange, and green leaves everywhere.
This picture definitely solidifies that fall is my favorite season in Korea.

We stopped about a kilometer from the peak to have lunch and we ate the classic "picnic food" Kimbap. This is Korea's version of the california roll, and on this hike I discovered why people eat it so much. I had it before, many times, but never "go chu" style which means "red pepper". Spicy kimbap is definitely the way to go and it really does make an awesome snack.

The whole trail was next to a stream, and Danny got this awesome picture of water flowing down a huge rock covered in fallen leaves...beautiful.

As you can see, we were really happy to finally get to the top of the mountain. Gungmangbong Peak is only 4,662 ft high, but because we start at almost sea level and Korean mountains can be pretty steep, it was a tough hike.
Korea is about 70% mountains and we really got to see that once we reached the summit.
I like this picture. Danny looks like he is at the top of the world.

It's funny that in some ways, even though I come from the best state in the US, coming to Korea has made enjoy the outdoors more. (And it makes me miss Colorado even more because they look similar.) I hope I can just have a little more time before the dreaded Korean cold winter comes in full force. Well, if this past weekend happens to be the last nice one before the winter hits, it was a great way to spend the day!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Craziest Day of Our Lives: Part II

I'm sorry that the second half of this post has taken me some time to do. We have had a lot going on here in Korea, like some of my awesome family visiting, and it has kept me from finishing the story. I'm excited, however, that today is finally the day and even though I am still struggling with the fact that I will never truly express the insanity that this day held, I will do my best and hopefully, at the very least, it will make you want to experience a Korean "hiking club" for yourself.
Danny's face says it all. Imagine what you feel like after you have hiked for a couple hours. We were tired and ready for a relaxing ride home in a train. Now imagine as you are about to board the train, you notice people loading equipment for what seems like a rock concert: a tv, keyboard, mics, large speakers, and more. Oh no. Danny and I boarded the train and knew that it was possible that our relaxing ride home on the train was slipping away... but we were hopeful still. The ride to the hike was strange, yes, we played some crazy games, yes, and we were force fed some shots, yes, but it was nothing we couldn't handle. But now the flood gates had opened!!
We were all getting sushi for supper on the train which we were excited about, but did you know that Koreans think that the best thing that goes with sushi is liquor? The plates of Korean sushi (or mostly sashimi) came out and so did the beer and Soju. Instantly, as you can see above, the "shy" Korean people got more lively and in the mood to party and oh, how they can party.

Then the music started playing. Not easy listening dinner music but Korean No-Rae-Bong. I didn't even know that karaoke on a train existed, but it does! The first guy up to the mic was the man who invited us in the first place, Mr. Kang. As you can see he wants to get this train off to a good start, so not even 5 minutes after we had left the station, Mr. Kang was putting his heart and soul into the song.

People weren't out of control, though as they ate their sushi, drank their beer, and listened to someone sing them a song... that didn't last long. The three of us, Danny, me and our friend Andrew were getting some good laughs at the situation, and people seemed to enjoy coming to "talk" to us so that was fun. Mind you I say "talk" because they speak Korean and we speak English so that hindered deep conversations, but there is one language Koreans speak that they believe crosses all barriers... beer. Every time someone would come to say hello, they thought that we looked like we needed more beer so all of a sudden it seemed like we had multiple bottles of Hite (awful Korean beer) and Soju each. They all wanted to do a round with us so they proceeded to pour us a glass and unfortunately it is rude to refuse a drink from a new person. (Again here is a disclaimer: we did not get drunk. Somehow, despite their efforts, we made it out in one piece.) Towards the end of the ride instead of chanting "GOMEBAY!" (which means "bottoms up!") with each new person who wanted to drink with us, we made up our own cheer... "HITE, CASS, MAX, CHUMBAWUMBA!!" Hite, Cass, and Max are all Korean brands of beer and we added the "Chumbawumba" part in hopes that the Koreans would think this was a popular phrase in America and spread it around the land. Soon most of the train was yelling our chant, but knowing their state, I don't think they will remember much anyways.

Now things are starting to get a little crazy. Each train member wanted to "get to know us more" by drinking with us and the sweet Korean people with their quiet ways seemed to vanish. The woman above looks innocent holding a beer and smiling for the camera, but she is really thinking, " Soon I am going to try to take the shirt off of your friend, and I will force feed you more Soju, AND I will grope your husbands leg while he is singing me a song." No joke. All those things happened and more. (Danny's face again says it all: I don't know what I'm doing here, I just wanted to hike!)
Two minutes later: Almost like a choreographed teen movie, all the 40 and 50 and 60 year old Koreans got up and started dancing uncontrollably in the aisles. Yeah, PARTY TRAIN! The music was bumpin', the dance floor was ragin', and all their little hiking bolo ties were bouncing merrily to the music.
Of course, we had to sing. There is no joining a hiking group and thinking you will only be hiking...NO! You must sing your way back to your home, and that is what we intended to do... even if it was by force. I chose "Dancing Queen" by Abba which was a hit, even if I did sound tone deaf. Danny chose the Beatles "Twist and Shout" which also got the people dancing much like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Then came Andrew... the real dancing queen.
Andrew has a talent he hasn't shown many people outside of Korea: he can sing in Korean. This may sound like a small thing, but if you take a train, a mic, Andrew, a Korean pop song, and 60 drunk hikers, you've got a winning combination. The woman pictured above with Andrew was easily the most insane of all the people on the train. Also mild mannered looking, she packs a punch. If you could see into her mind at the moment, she would be thinking, "Soon I am going to dance crazily in the aisles and make Katy dance with me by force (pictured below). Then I am going to pull your heads back and pour shots of Soju down your throats and then slam the cup on the floor in triumph. Lastly, for my greatest plan, I am going to give Danny a lap dance while he cowers in the corner trying to escape." (Also all true events) She felt as though Andrew's song was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard and wanted to let him know it. I have never seen a woman hold a man so tight while her husband is toasting with more beer and laughing in the corner. Apparently her love for weygooks (foreigners) is not a problem : )

You may be thinking, "Hey, this sounds like fun!" and for a while it can be. However, when you realize that the train ride is over 3 hours long to get you to the safety of your own home, then you might rethink that. Amazingly enough, the scene kept getting crazier and crazier. We literally saw 4 men pick up a woman and throw he into another group of people. We also talked to a police officer about something while his hand seemed to have a mind of its own and searched for female bums to squeeze. All the while beer and Soju was flowing. The drinks were so plentiful that there were half empty bottles rolling around on the ground, spilling their contents all over the train, while men and women went into the "bottomless" cooler for fresh bottles. (Man, I felt sorry for whoever had to clean up that train.)

Occasionally we needed to sit down and rest during the 3 hour ride. Seems reasonable enough right? NOOO... the Koreans would have none of that. As soon as we tried to rest, one of us would be pulled out of our seat and forced to either dance, sing, or drink. Poor Andrew seemed like he got the worst, or the best attention from the Korean ladies. I love this series of pictures showing how desperately they wanted Andrew to dance with them, while Andrews face becomes just a blur of horror, anticipating what they will do to him next. Because of their eagerness to have us "enjoying ourselves", we found the only place to rest was the next car over. The blanket of sweet silence that covered us in that train for only a few moments was a welcome relief. Here you can see how one train can hold so many different scenes.

The next car over...

Our car...
We had never laughed so much in our lives and as the train pulled into the Andong station we felt a mix of sadness and utter relief. All that was left was a floor covered in sweat and alcohol, 60ish Koreans with hoarse voices from singing too loud, and this half eaten cucumber.

The last words we heard from the lady in orange who would have been crowned the "Party Train Queen" as she got into a cab were a very subdued, "Good Evening." A fitting end to a unbelievably, indescribable, and unforgettably chaotic experience. Good times.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Something to Celebrate!

This is a random post with some random pictures but I wanted to share it anyways... Two weeks ago Danny and I officially became DEBT FREE!!! I just wanted to share this because we've worked hard to make this happen and we are finally out of the grip of our school loans. WOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I thought I would just put a lot of random pictures in this post of us being excited because that is how we feel now...FFFFFFFFFFFRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

This was my attempt to jump for joy in China!
This is Danny's "OH YEAH!" face in China!
Even our pool friends are excited for us! (Danny looks like Flipper when he swims across the water: )

Even this strange Korean army woman is saying, "Wow, way to go you waygooks(foreigners)! Now you can be like me, floating in a cloudy sky, happy and free in my extra large uniform! I love the army and I love being debt free!" (Wow, that got weird ; )