Thursday, August 30, 2007

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle which is a perfectly preserved feudal era castle located near Kobe, on the way from Tokyo to Hiroshima. Because of its white color, it is also known as the White Egret Castle. Also because of its white color, I switched to black & white for the rest of my pictures.
The main part of the castle where you can walk around polished wood floors and walk up steep stairways to the 6th floor.
Sitting in the shade of a gate, hoping for the slightest breeze, and trying not to think about how hot it is.
A view of the castle's walls and the rest of the city from the 6th floor of the main building.
Decorative crests on the walls of the castle.

Ringing the bell on the 6th floor of the castle.
A guard trying to stay cool out in the main courtyard.


Amber & I at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto

Wearing kimonos at the temple.
Sarah with the hungry statues - little creatures wearing what look like red bibs that were all over the temple grounds.
Amber & I rock climbing at the temple. Thanks to Sarah's photography skills, you can't tell that we are only about 2 feet off the ground.

Watching the cook make yakisoba (fried noodles) for dinner.
Our traditional style room with tatami mats and futons.
Sarah & Amber outside our very cool hotel.

A cemetary we accidentally found on our way to the temple.

Gardens of Higashi-Hongan temple.

Sarah on a bridge in the middle of the garden. The umbrella was not meant to be decorational, but functional. Thankfully though, it didn't rain too hard or too much (this time, it was a different story at other times).

Finally posing for a group photo on the last full day of the trip - Sarah, Amber, & I.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DMZ-North Korea

Memorial at Freedom Bridge at Imjingak.
View of North Korea from Dora Observatory. If you look very closely, you can make out the red flag of North Korea to the right of the binoculars.
View of mountains in North Korea. The DMZ, a green valley surrounded by mountains, is surprisingly pretty. Unfortunately, these are the best pictures I have. You can only take pictures from a line about 8 feet from the binoculars and the weather was slightly hazy. For 500 won, the binoculars let you see factories and empty apartment buildings in North Korea.
Sign at Dorasan train station listing a future train route.
Sitting contemplatively at the empty train station.

DMZ Not so Serious

The DMZ is a strange place to visit. It has become a major tourist attraction and with that, all the cheeseness one would expect to find at a major tourist site. It feels as if someone was sitting in their office thinking, "You know, we have all this land that we can't do anything with. Hmm....I know, let's make it a tourist site. Yeah, that's a great idea. We have nothing else better to do with this land."
This is a diorama of a "peaceful" DMZ complete with beautiful flowers and figurines of ducks and deer enjoying the natural undisturbed beauty of the DMZ. In a documentary, a butterfly flew over the green fields of the DMZ and trees, flowers, and park benches sprung up out of the ground as if the DMZ is a place to enjoy a Saturday afternoon picnic with your friends. This same documentary called the DMZ "a symbol of peace" that appearantly needs to be guarded by lots of barbed wire and soldiers.
Jonny having fun at the empty Dorasan train station.
The amusement park adjacent to Imjingak, the farthest north you can go without crossing the civilian control line.
A row of tour buses in the parking lot of Imjingak.
Everything is an animation character in Asia, including soldiers.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


If you can't find a trash can in Korea, just start your own. Seriously. I've yet to start my own trash pile on the sidewalk/street, but I am guilty of adding my trash to someone else's pile.
These pictures are from downtown Seoul.

I think Korea is a great country, but in my opinion it does have a problem when it comes to trash. Not only is there a lack of trash cans on street corners and in subway stations, but lots of food items come individually packaged, creating more trash than is necessary. I come home almost every night to find some flyer or advertisement taped to my door, creating more trash. Walking down the street, I see these same flyers laying on the ground. I find myself laughing at my kids when they tell me that China is so dirty, because in my mind Korea isn't that much different.
Throwing away my apartment trash is rather complicated. I have to sort my trash into different bags - 1 special bag for food stuff, 1 bag for recycle materials, and 1 bag for everything else. When Huy (a new teacher) asked me tonight what I did earlier today, I told him I took out the trash. He gave me a strange look. He doesn't realize yet what a process taking out the trash can be.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Question of the day conversation in my Special 5 & 6 class (practically fluent 12 year old Korean kids, 1 even speaks with a British accent because she lived in England for a year) about what did you eat for breakfast.
Samsung: Rice and (looking up word on electronic dictionary) anchovies
Me: Anchovies?
Samsung: Yes, stir fried with almond
Me: Okay
Diana: What are anchovies?
Me: Small fish that come in a can (demonstrating with my fingers)
Diana: Aha, okay. I had anchovies for breakfast too
Me: Really?
Diana: Yes, they are good
Me: (trying to conceal my gagging at the thought of eating anchovies anytime, yet alone early in the morning) You know, in the US, people put anchovies on pizza
Diana: Eeewww! Gross!
Me: (trying not to laugh) Yeah, I think so too

Sunday, August 5, 2007

How you try on pants in Korea

How you try on pants in Korea as demonstrated by Matt while shopping at Dongdaemun this weekend.
Step 1: Pull the oversize skirt over your pants.
Step 2: Carefully remove your pants and put on the new pants.
Step 3: Pull up the skirt to show your friends how the new pants look.
Step 4: Carefully take off the new pants and put your pants back on. Remove the skirt.
Step 5: Do a little bargaining before you buy your new pants.
Dongdaemun is one of the best places to go shopping in Seoul. There are several huge malls which basically consist of 7 -8 floors of dozens of little stalls selling everything you could ever wear from shirts to pants to belts to shoes to jewelry. Since there are no dressing rooms, you try on clothes in the middle of the walkway.
It is not as easy as it looks to do this. After Matt bought his shorts, I had my turn with the skirt to try on a pair of shorts myself. Between my laughing, general clumsiness, and trying to avoid being bumped from all the people walking by, it's a wonder that I didn't fall over or reveal my underwear to everyone. Even though I had to try on 2 sizes, it was all worth it in the end because I got a nice new pair of shorts & a belt for 24,000 won (roughly $24 US).

I miss these kids already

After 6 months, it was time to say good-bye to my Basic 5 class. Over that time, these kids gradually became my favorites. Even on the days they annoyed me so much, I still always had a lot of fun with them. I am proud of how much they have learned in the past 6 months which also reminds me of how much I have learned as a teacher in that 6 months as well. Now just 6 more months to go. In the back row from left: Lee, Chan Young (with glasses), Lynn, Max, Sky, Jin Ook, Sarah (with the red visor), Kerry (in purple), Yoo Kyong, Jay Q (with his tongue stuck out), and then Chunk in the front center by me.
Chunk, one of those kids you just have to love because of his personality, even though he will often drive you crazy.