1-19 An Afternoon Bowling

DSCN2712 The first thing you need to know about bowling in Korea is that it is eerily similar to bowling back in the States. Why is it so remarkable that they’re so much alike? Well, one of the funny quirks about Korea is that even the most everyday things are different enough to stand out as strange. I’m always saying to Kurtis, “It’s like someone in Korea has seen a picture of <insert object> and then thinks, ‘I could make that!’.” We’ve encountered this phenomenon with utensils, food, and chocolate.

Anywho, I’m baffled by how the bowling alley here in Masan is an exception. The strangely specific features that are so uniquely familiar  to the culture of American bowling alleys can also be found halfway around the world here in Korea.

DSCN2741Here are just a few of the things I noticed (reference the photos for examples of each).

1. A phone by the computer which never seems to be needed (since somehow whenever something goes wrong an employee just appears) but if it was needed a person would have no idea how to use it.

2. Computer score keeping stations, complete with 1970’s computer graphics and technology (covered in a white plastic shell), corresponding 1970’s style hanging TV’s over each lane, and an hours-of-fun spinny plastic chair for the lucky soul sitting at the control center.DSCN2709

3. Even the hunt for the perfect bowling ball presented the same challenges – too many heavy balls and balls with too small of finger holes (seriously, what strong armed giant with tiny fingers is supplying these places?) As for the selection, we had our pick of balls designed in colors from 70’s, as well as the occasional strangely colored swirly looking ones.

4. Our choice of old bowling shoes available only in what can be described as the ‘bowling shoe color palate.’ DSCN2748(Note: getting shoes here did present the added challenge of navigating a different shoe size system, and required assuring the shoe clerk that she had heard me correctly and that, “No seriously, I really do want that huge shoe size I’m asking for.”

5. In my opinion, the quintessential bowling alley design feature which is inescapable in America is the bowling alley star-burst patterned carpet. There is no carpet anywhere in Korea, but we found the same unforgettable pattern on the chair upholstery.

DSCN27396. As if these first 5 characteristics weren’t enough, the similarities continued right down to the large strangely colored geometric shapes painted down the walls. Here’s an example of these random shapes, in the top left corner of the photo at right featuring Kurtis’s perfect form… ;)

Aside from the many similarities of this bowling alley to the bowling alleys back home, I should point out that there was one major difference- location. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe to get here we took the elevator up to somewhere around the 9th floor.

Returning our shoes and beginning the walk back to campus, we persuaded our bowling companions to stop by our favorite street food cart. which sells these little pan-cake like treats which are Kurtis’s favorite. With a slightly crunchy outside and a cinnamon sweet inside, we can’t walk by this place without picking some up. Second to their delicious flavor, the next best thing about them is that they only cost about 65 cents.

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12/17 – 12/19 Seoul on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday

How about a quick (Edit: was gonna be short… turns out I can kind of ramble :D) post about Susie’s last minute, midweek, trip to Seoul with friends?

IMG_00000188After hopping an evening bus to Seoul, my trip started something like this (picture at right). Sometimes subway trains can be nice and empty, but as you can see here they are often jam packed full of people. As I was standing on the train messaging with my friend Lauren who was patiently waiting for me a few stops away, but of course I missed that stop and didn’t realize it until 5 stations later… Gotta happen once right? Anyway, as I’m on the train grappling with my urge to take a photo showing how crowded it gets, and my need to not make my self stand out so obviously as such a tourist, I realize that every, EVERY, single person was on their cellphone and would never even see me.

IMG_00000198Well, once I had finally arrived at my destination I called it an early night so that I could get up early the next morning to go out for some breakfast with Lauren. Darcie, who had lived in the area of Seoul where we were staying, directed us to a little place a few blocks away called the Honey Bowl. It was so delicious and a pretty good deal! Mostly it was just fun enjoying some classic breakfast goodness. (Checkout the awesome menu we ordered with- an iPad).

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For the rest of the day, we all went to accomplish our respective goals, which for me was just some sight seeing. I knew there was a really famous palace (and that it was closed on Tuesdays), but I wanted to go scope it out for a potential future trip with Kurtis and check out the National Palace Museum of Korea. Check out these photos of my trip around the palace and in the museum.

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IMG_00000225IMG_00000203For the second half of the day I met back up with Darcie and Lauren, IMG_00000242and we did a little shopping before getting dinner. While we were walking about in the shopping area, we were approached by this spirited group of young ladies who were doing a poll of foreigners about whether Dokdo/Tsushima belongs to Korea or Japan.  If you said Korea they cheered and gave you candy, but if you said Japan, they had a lovely speech to give and poster board to show you about how it is a Korean island.

IMG_00000245On our third and final day we ate at a wonderful little Thai restaurant and then went to a microbrewery nearby for some “real beer,” which is hard to find in Korea.

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11/5 From the Bay to the Mountain

IMG_00000079The view out our window (this photo), is a beautiful one.  Since we live half way up a mountain, we have a wonderful view of “The Dream Bay” below us, and a mountain up behind us. On a beautiful autumn day, we embarked to see both.  Our walk down the hill toward the bay and the downtown area was for practical reasons- we needed haircuts.  But then, after a quick lunch, Kurtis talked Susie into a hike up the mountain.  Getting to the entrance of the hiking trails is a pretty steep climb; however, it is a journey made almost daily by the older population here to maintain their good health.

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When we reached the park that is the starting point for the trails, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pose in the most touristy fashion with some interesting wood carvings. Who does the best imitation of a jolly wood carving?

IMG_00000047As we hiked up the winding trail—half dirt path, half wooden staircase— the first thing we noticed was the presence of wildlife.  Back home, little critters are a constant companion, whether in countryside or city, but here, the only animals you’ll find in the city are wild cats.  Other than the occasional crow, there are hardly any birds at all in our area.  It was nice to hear birds chirping again up in the mountain woods.

Hiking  anywhere in Korea will eventually bring you across these little drinking spots.  The brightly colored red (sometimes blue) plastic ladles alert trail goers to complementary fresh stream water via a humble dripping pipe.

Here’s a few photos of us on our courageous climb.

 

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IMG_00000110Once we reached an inviting resting platform at a major look-out point, we braved the stilted construction, where we were joined by an elderly couple who stopped for a snack.  At first we sat silently seemingly going unnoticed by the new arrivals, until the woman peeled a big persimmon with her knife in ten seconds flat and wordlessly offered us slices along with some grapes on a newspaper.  We tried to reciprocate by offering the only consumables we had with us- some tiny dark chocolate cubes- to no avail.  We were rewarded for our efforts with a smile though.

We took in some beautiful views of the city below and hiked back to the Design Gwan, which was just a speck from our view on the mountain.IMG_00000054

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10/21-22 The Sights of Seoul

IMG_00000028 (2)Beyond our professional experience at the KOTESOL conference, we enjoyed getting to see some of the touristy sights in Seoul. Our first post conference excursion was to the international district- Itaewon. Exiting from the subway our heads spun with sights to see and we wandered down an avenue lined on both sides with antique shops, fashionable clothing boutiques, and individuals creating their own fashion jewelry and art.

IMG_00000033A Moroccan restaurant we had noticed at the entrance to the avenue had captured our interest and trumped the plethora of delicious options. We were rewarded for this decision with a heavenly spread of exotic dishes to divine to be captured in words… or photos.

The next day, Monday, it rained. We had planned on taking in many of Seoul’s most notable sights, but knowing we wouldn’t be able to take good photos and that we would return to Seoul again, we decided to head off for an indoor destination- IMG_00000020the Korean War Museum. Arriving to the museum we stopped first in their dining area for lunch at a rather fancy joint.

IMG_00000039Now well fed and ready to spend the entire afternoon exploring we entered the museum only to find a rather unexpected crowd blocking the way. We found some informative employees that the museum was closed so that it could host Seoul Fashion Week. Not wanting to waste our trip we decided we could still see a lot around the outside of the museum. We meet these Saudi guys and Susie offered to help them take a picture. When they returned the favor we said “Shukran” (which means thank you in Arabic) and they were so happy we “spoke their language,” that they wanted to take a picture together. IMG_00000033 (2)

It wasn’t the day we had imagined, but we were happy with the way things turned out. We took the subway to the Intercity Bus Terminal, bought our tickets, and ran to board the bus to Masan. The countryside between Seoul and Masan is a beautiful sight.

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10/20 to 10/22 – KOTESOL

 

Happy New Year! This year I was going to make a resolution to get the blog updated, but instead of making a resolution Kurtis and I just sat down today and did it! Here is the first of a string of posts we’ve already written and will publish each day this week. Cheers!
IMG_00000007Our first trip to Seoul was undertaken in order to attend the KOTESOL 2012 Conference. The conference was held on the beautiful campus of Sookmyung Women’s University. The Conference had many good presentations, and even several great ones. For Kurtis this was his 5th TESOL related conference, but for Susie this was a first. One of the lectures Susie IMG_00000002attend was on helping students think in their second language, while Kurtis saw the indomitable Sara Davila (a well known teacher and teacher trainer in Korea) present ideas on enhancing students’ creativity. We both especially enjoyed “Teaching Your Tongue To Talk,” a pronunciation workshop by Rheanne Anderson, an EFL professor at RMIT, the only all English University in Vietnam.IMG_00000010

The plenary given by Scott Thornbury- “The Secret History of Methods” detailed the progression ( and sometimes digression) of ideas on how to teach and learn languages. This presentation was a real high point of the conference as Mr. Thornbury had everyone both laughing their heads off and seriously considering how their own ideas about how to teach a second language affected their students’ success. See Susie and Kurtis after the plenary representing Missouri State and the ELI half a world away!

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Here is Susie with Darcie and Chantal, two fellow Kyungnam University English Compadres.

IMG_00000018Notice in the above pictures the most coveted souvenir of the conference- the attendee name badge. We barely escaped with ours as we were accosted upon leaving on the last day and told to hand them over. Kurtis simply ran for it (garnering cheers from onlookers) and Susie just stood her ground and out right refused to give it up with a confident and simple “no.”

One afternoon of the conference we set out with some friends and enjoyed some delicious Pho at a Vietnamese place just outside the campus entrance. See Kurtis and Darcie enjoying some complementary tea.

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12-15 Christmas at Aeyukwon Orphanage

IMG_00000366In this special Christmas time post we’d like to skip ahead on the timeline of events we’ve been playing catch up with, to post about a special outing we had last week.
Our friends, Chantal and Hyeonho, who have volunteered before at a local orphanage here in Masan took the initiative to organize a wonderful chance for all of us and our Kyungnam co-workers to give back to our host community as well as spread some Christmas cheer- a Christmas gift drive for the kids.

IMG_00000339Chantal created festive candy-canes with the age and name of each child (around 35 kids) and everyone in the office had the opportunity to have a child to get presents for (some generous souls even chose 2)!

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There was a lot of talk around the office about what kind of present to get because we wanted it to be special for the kids. On Saturday, December 15, a group from the office comprised of friends fIMG_00000257rom England, New Zealand, Canada, and America went to the orphanage to meet the kids and play Santa Clause.

Right away Michael, our friend and co-worker from England, hit it off with the younger kids and the rest of us followed suit.

Handing out presents was a blast.
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(And so was playing with the kids and their new toys afterwards).

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Shortly after all of the children had gotten their gifts, we were treated to the most entertaining rendition of Gangnam Style yet. Here’s a photo of the line up right before they began the trade mark horse riding dance move.

It was very rewarding to be able to be a part of this great gift-giving experience. At times living in another country where you clearly stand out and get noticed can make you feel like an outsider, but one of the best parts of the experience we had at the orphanage was getting the feeling of connecting with and contributing to the community we live in and are a part of.

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10/16 – The Lantern Festival

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We went to our second festival in Korea, the Lantern Festival in JInju.
Jinju is a city about 1 hour away from Masan.
The festival takes place within the grounds of an ancient fortress and the surrounding river bank, and even in the middle of the river itself. We started off walking through the castle grounds and seeing some traditional music performances. There were performers dressed as historical figures who seemed just as happy to see us as we were to see them:

IMG_00000193 IMG_00000194 IMG_00000195(Note the progression as Mr. Beard realizes the height difference.)

IMG_00000209There was a large wooden platform with a very ornate roof and pillars within the stone walls of the fortress. We admired the beautiful blue, green, and red paint that adorned every square inch of the building and then exited through a steep staircase and small hole in the fortress wall into a big park. In the park we found our first lanterns. These were life size paper meche-esque depictions of animals, people, and objects.

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We continued along a walkway through the park and found an area where people were attaching their wishes and dreams to lanterns. We made our own additions:

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IMG_00000328Near the end of the park’s walkway we came across a beautiful view of the city below. A little further on we found a big Buddhist temple made of 3 separate buildings, each filled from floor to ceiling with candles.
By the time we left the temple grounds the sun was starting to set. We had had a pretty full day and seen a lot of cool stuff, but little did we know that IMG_00000368the really impressive sights were just around the corner. As we made our way down toward the river, we saw that there were huge lanterns floating on the surface of the water.

We bought tickets to walk across one of the many make-shift bridges that let us get up close and personal with some amazing lanterns:

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When we reached the other side, we saw what may be the most impressive lantern ever:
IMG_00000408Yes, that is real fire spitting out of a dragon’s mouth!

IMG_00000386IMG_00000430We noticed a tunnel and went inside. The walls and ceiling were covered with lanterns of all shapes and sizes that had been made by students.
The next tunnel was filled with lanterns that people had written wishes on. It went on for ages!
Here is a view from outside the tunnel so you can see for yourself how immense it was:

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