29 June, 2006

My two favorite kids!

Anmok Beach, June 18th

Being an unusually sunny and cloudless day, I knew a hike in the mountains would be unbearably hot, so I grabbed a taxi out to Anmok for some sun, reading, lounging and splashing in the water. I couldn't believe how deserted the beach was given the quality of the weather.

Beach Day with Morning Kinder, June 13th

The kids played with shells in the sand,
dug tunnels in the sand,
played ball with Marc Teacher,
and were even allowed to hold hands and stand in the surf.
And of course Julian ran around taking pictures with the ubiquitous school Nikon.

28 June, 2006

Mureung Valley, June 11th

Hopefully you can stomach one more blog about me hiking in the beautiful mountains of Gangwon-do, though I'm sure it won't be the last. I put my quest to hike Noinbong on hold for awhile thinking I should see some new terrain. I got started kind of late on Sunday afternoon but struck out anyway. I took a bus 40 minutes south to Donghae where my guide book told me I could catch a bus every 10 minutes for a 20 minute ride to Mureung Valley. I waited for over 30 minutes and finally caught a bus that took almost 40 minutes. I didn't mind waiting, but it meant that I didn't start hiking until 5PM. Given the late hour, I decided to only do the 1.1km hike up to one of the temples. I might have been better off doing the 2.0km hike to the falls--it took me an hour to hike 1.1km. It was worth it, however. The steep climb provided spectacular views of the valley, and the trail wasn't very crowded. I stopped for a rest and some peaceful reflection at the temple, and it was very restful and peaceful--until a monk started cutting wood with a chainsaw, that is. I just had to laugh, then took off down the mountain. I had no problems with the buses home.

Nakyeongpokpo, Sogeumgang, June 6th

Okay, back to regular posting. Tuesday the 6th was Memorial Day here in Korea, and we had the day off. I decided to go hiking, once again at Sogeumgang in Odaesan National Park. I'd previously done a short hike to Guryong Falls and wanted to go back in order to climb to the top of Noinbong Peak. It was 9.6km to the top, and still not being very good at translating kilometers to miles, I didn't even consider that I wouldn't have time to finish the hike. With only 2.3km to go, however, I decided to turn back as the sun was sinking low in the late afternoon sky. It's not very common here to see women out hiking by themselves, so I get plenty of surprised looks and the occasional thumbs up, and this trip was no exception. One older man even went so far as to keep an eye on me, never letting himself get so far ahead that he couldn't turn around to see how I was doing. That would have been creepy anywhere else, but I've come to expect that sort of behavior here. Overall it was a nice hike, but I still have yet to see the elusive Noinbong Peak!

22 June, 2006

All other posts have been put on hold to bring you this very important news:
Margie Ann Lillian Berriochoa was just born on June 22nd at 9:41AM MST. She weighs 8 lbs. 14 oz. and is 21 inches long. Her Aunt Marge couldn't be prouder and is very sad to be half a world away on her birthday.

15 June, 2006

Seoul/Incheon, June 3-4

April had been planning a trip to Seoul on the 3rd to pick up her parents from the airport, and I went along to do a little shopping and then catch up with a friend I'd met on a previous trip to Seoul. Upon arriving Saturday morning, we took the subway over to COEX, a gigantic mall complex. I discovered April to be quite the efficient shopper. She picks out what she likes, tries it on, and if it works, she buys one in every color. In shopping this way, she had a pretty smart pile of clothes in short order. I picked up a couple of things myself.

After a bite to eat, we headed in different directions--she to the airport and I to Dongdaemun Stadium, again via subway, to meet Barkley. We'd both had enough shopping for the day, so once again I had the pleasure of riding the subway [Sidenote: In spite of its tendency to be intensely crowded, the Seoul subway system is quite cheap and easy enough for a foreigner such as me to figure out, and it sure beats taking a taxi--in my opinion--even if it means being crushed by and with strangers, though I think I'll try to avoid the #7 line around 9AM from here on out.]. Twenty-two stops and one transfer later, we disembarked in Bucheon, a city west of Seoul. Having just moved there from Anyang, Barkley nearly didn't find his apartment building, but luckily for him, he did. We had a fun evening watching movies and eating pizza.

The next day we decided to check out the large port city of Incheon, home of the international airport. We took the subway to the end of line #1 and were interested to see what the end of a line looks like. We were underwhelmed by the small station and the tracks that just trailed out into some grass thinking that the end of a line deserves something more noteworthy. Just outside the station we saw a sign for Chinatown and made to check it out. A quick pass was all we needed, and we were on to other things. We ran across Jayu Park (Freedom Park) which had a beautiful view of the city and some statues celebrating US-Korea relations including one of General Douglas MacArthur. The plaque beneath his figure proclaimed Korea's gratitude to his service and called him a hero, but the military guards posted near the statue spoke to me silently of other things. I did some reading later and discovered that the park has been the scene of conflicts between young activists and older patriots.

Next we took a taxi out to Wolmido, a bustling promenade on the oceanfront. It was a warm and sunny afternoon, and there were lots of families out enjoying the fountains and sea breezes. After awhile, we tired of the sun and went up to Wolmido Park where we took a lovely, shaded 2km walk around a hill that afforded views of the port and benches that proved useful for short naps. There we called it a day, and after getting my stuff from Bucheon, I made the journey back to Gangneung.

13 June, 2006

Dano Festival, May 31st

Danoje is a shamanist festival that takes over Gangneung every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year that happened to fall on May 31st. Vendors of every variety set up tents along both sides of the river for probably a half mile along with numerous stages, pavilions, and carnival rides. Should you so desire, you could purchase suits and ties, shoes, underwear, socks, cosmetics, hats, farming equipment, jewelry, antiques, toys, any number of strange dried sea-products, and on and on. I didn't see nearly as much as I would have liked in spite of going down on three separate occasions, but what I did see was a great cultural experience.
A fraction of the fairgrounds
A mix of modern dance and traditional drumming.A traditional dance/pageant.
Our dinner cooking on a spit (mystery meats in the foreground).Bryce opted for cowhead soup instead of the delicious spit-cooked pig.Ssireum wrestling.

10 June, 2006

Morning Kinder Picnic, May 31st

The picnic was on the calendar months ago for Saturday, May 27th. The parents were invited, and we teachers spent most of our afternoon time in April and May choreographing a special performance of Puff the Magic Dragon. The 27th came, and as we were dragging ourselves out of bed earlier than we ever do on Saturday mornings, the phone call came, canceling the picnic due to rain. I hadn't even looked outside. Julian decided with the parents to reschedule for the 31st, a day we were supposed to have off due to elections. We had been planning on spending the day at the Dano Festival and were a little frustrated by the sudden lack of day off, but we sucked it up and went with the plan.

Fortunately Wednesday morning was lovely--sunny without being too hot. We drove to a recreational area in the mountains about twenty minutes out of town, checked out the facilities, and waited for the families to arrive. I had a good turnout from my class--eleven of twelve of my kids showed up with their moms and a couple dads came as well. It was really interesting, and in some cases eye-opening, to meet the parents and see the kids with them.

When everyone was assembled, two park guides split us into groups and took us on a nature tour around the mountain that lasted over an hour. They had the kids find different shapes in the plants, draw things they heard, and try to throw pine cones into a circle. It was fun for them. The parents documented every move of their children with the latest in digital technology. Back at the picnic area, we dug into box lunches of gimbap along with watermelon and other little snacks and treats the parents lavished on us.

After lunch, it was time for the long-awaited, much-anticipated performance of Puff the Magic Dragon. We had three kids on wood blocks, three with triangles, a pirate, three 'noble kings and princes', a Puff, a Jackie Paper, and a chorus doing motions throughout the song. The parents loved it so much that they made us do it a second time.

Marc then led a couple lively rounds of Red Light, Green Light and Red Rover, Red Rover. Following that, we got everything packed up and into the cars just before the sky opened up and dumped torrential rain on us. Below are some additional photos from the day. A note about the picture immediately following: these women have to be two of the world's most beautiful and most fashionably dressed mothers. The one in the blue hat, Sally's mother, has a penchant for earrings and has kept me well-supplied with large Korean earrings.

05 June, 2006

Rafting, May 28th

Bryce got a wild hair to go rafting, thinking it would be good to go before the weather turned too nice. So on a cloudy, rainy Sunday morning, Marc, Bryce and I hopped on a bus with a vague idea of what we needed to do find a place to go rafting (raeputing). First we took a bus north to Yang Yang, and from there we got bus east to Inje, a smaller city in the mountains (but then, what isn't in the mountains?).

We sort of stood around at the Inje bus station wondering what we should do next. We asked about a bus up the river valley and were told there was one soon, and in the meantime, Marc exercised his obnoxiousness on the locals. I walked around the corner to wait in peace, and Bryce went to find some water.

When we both returned to Marc, we found that he had cornered a young couple, and what do you know, the girl's father was the senior managing director of one of the adventure companies in the area. They offered to take us by taxi to meet him at his bungee jump, but we politely refused, saying we'd rather wait for the bus. Just joking! We jumped at the chance to meet Mr. Chu who ended up offering to drive us personally up the river at 2:00. That gave us an hour to kill during which we grabbed some food at a great little place overlooking the river.

At 2:00 we found Mr. Chu at the bungee jump, and he drove us up to his rafting location. We got outfitted with life-jackets and helmets (they had to rip the padding out of the biggest helmet so it would fit on Bryce's head) and then paired up with a group of Koreans in order to fill a raft. Our guide led some paddling practice on dry land so we could get our rhythm down, and then we hit the water. The Koreans got a kick out of counting the 'one-two' paddle rhythm in English, just for us. I quickly learned the words for 'forward' and 'reverse' and every once in awhile, the guide would yell 'Rolling!' and we'd rock the raft back and forth as hard as we could. There wasn't alot of really 'white-water', but the guide made things fun, and the people we were with were great. Everyone got thrown in several times which was frigidly shocking. Unfortunately I was not able to take my camera on the river, but thanks to the adventure company, I have a nice shot of us on the river. More pictures are available here for the date 5/28.

At the final destination, we showered and met Mr. Chu and the other Koreans for snacks. Mr. Chu said he had a friend from Gangneung who would take us home for a fee about equal to the buses, and we agreed. It was also alot faster than the buses, as the guy drove insanely fast down the windy mountain roads. I couldn't sleep for the sharp cornering, but neither could I keep my eyes open for exhaustion which made for an interesting ride home. I ended the day with a pot of tea with Liz at a rooftop cafe.