Nov 30, 2009

We're back

There is so much to share with you about our experience, the problem is we saw so much and observed so many different things, how do you organize it all so that people want to read it? I think Ill write about the island of Bali and let Lombok, the Gillis and Taipei go in their own blogs.
We went to Bali first. After we arrived and retrieved our bags, we waited in line for 45 minutes for our visas and to go through immigration. The air was stifling hot and more humid than any florida day. We exchanged money, got a yucky rate of 4 to 10,000 for our won and then found Gustie waiting at the gate with our names on a sign.
Gustie took us for an hour long ride up North to our hotel. On the way he sold us on hiring him for $50.00 to be our driver the next day. Our of the windows of our van you could see hundreds of motorbikes on the roads, many piled with a whole family on the back...children sandwiched between mon and dad, infants inside of sarongs held around moms neck and most without helmets. Also, they drove on the left side of the road, which for some reason is so hard for me to figure out, especially when you turn.
The landscape of Bali, being 3 degrees below the equator is lush with greenery and beautiful flowers everywhere. Each block of road had its own unique craft, one block would be loaded with stone statues of gods, the next with bamboo furniture that looked pier one quality for 300th the price., other stalls had beautiful paintings, silver jewelry or textiles. Dogs roamed the streets, temples and gigantic homes lined the streets and almost everyone was barefoot. There was also no such thing as a garbage truck or dump, everything is burned in these dug out cement holes lining the street. There was quite a bit of smoke from the fires and exhaust from all the motorbikes.
The huge homes are not what you may thing, most people are not wealthy by any means. the homes are just large structures meant for on average 4 generations of one family. Each home has its own temple for prayer and every female in the home has their own kitchen to cook so there is no hostility and the furniture is very sparce. Bali is the only island in Indonesia to be predominantly Hindu. There is a very big difference between the Hindu of Bali and the Muslim of Lombok.

Although Bali relies almost entirely on tourism as their main source of income, their traditions coexist within the tourism. It is not just put on as a tourist attraction. Everyone wears sarongs and sashes when entering a temple, even the men. Offerings are placed a few times daily in different spots around buildings, hotels and even where we rode the elephants.. The offerings are given to "acknowledge the life sustaining forces and prevent disasters such as earthquakes and epidemics." The wimen hold their babies and do not let them touch the ground until they are 105 days old. Bare shoulders are allowed as you can we with the traditional dancers. They use very stiff movements and dramatic eye gestures to enhance their dance.

The tourism industry is Balis source of national income. We came during slow season but June-August is when the island lights up with tourists. The locals are constantly in your face trying to sell you souviners, water, sarongs, transport, jewelry or history lessons. This was the part that Adam and I really didnt like. They were relentless, on every corner...and even more than that. If you told them no thank you, they'd ask three more times and then ask you where you are from to try and get you into conversation to try again to sell you something. They would follow you and stand over you making it very hard to enjoy the country. Everyone is always ripped off with the barganing because it never seems to work out in our favor. I dont understand why everyone cant just price their items fair, we would pay a fair price and be done. The average montly income for the Balinese is $90. American.

Food is inexpensive, Adam and I would eat at a fancy restaurant, 3 courses and a drink for around $20.00 inexpensive meals were around 1.80 a piece. The kids go to school 6 days a week from 7:30 to noon and are seen in teh streets playing or joining their parents at their stalls after school. Our hotel, The Bhaswari Resort was in the middle of the rice fields, about 15 minutes from Ubud. We were the only guests the first night so for $60.00 we had the room overlooking the pool. The room was decked out in flowers and beautiful homemade furniture. The staff was incredibly helpful and wanted nothing more than to make us happy. We had massages for $15.00 and were taxied into town for dinner. The staff was concerned we wanted to be in the city and offered to take us constantly, but we explained we like the natural peaceful beauty of their hotel.

Alright... the places we saw.

First, We went to see the Barong and Keris Dance. This is the historical Balinese Dance is about a lion-like creature, danced by two men, that roams the streets during Galungan to protect households from evil. During temple festivals it battles against Rangda, the queen of witches.

Then, we went to the Silver Factory which was set up like a sweat shop. We were toured around the place and the people working were hunched over in their stall, most without shoes or gloves or protective eye wear...soddering and creating jewelry. Each artist is paid by each piece they finish.

In Petulu there are white herons flying abundantly among the fields. They are not caged in, but for some reason, the birds flock to this city in particular to live.

The Tegalalang Rice Terraces were beautiful. We were hounded by many to purchase goodies but we avoided them the best we could to get a glimpse of the fields from above.

Then, Gusite found us a coffee plantation on the side of the road. We stopped and saw many different types of vegetation and fruit trees...snake fruit, pineapple, leechie berries, mango trees, cinnamon trees and many others. Then we tried local coffee, bought some ginsing coffee (so good) and tried the Kopa Lewak coffee. It is made from the dung of an animal that eats coffee beans and cherries and such. The dung is then processed and made into a strong thick coffee that is really expensive. They only create about 500 lbs of it a year.

After that, we rode on to the Kintamani , Gunung Batur and had lunch overlooking it. The volcano is 5,600 ft tall and is 7 miles in diameter. The volcano had its last major eruption in 1994.

On the way back to the hotel, we went and saw Gunung Kawi which is a temple made out of beautiful rock formations. The formations date back to the 11th century and served as royal memorials for members of the Warmadewa dynasty. At the bottom of a billion stairs was a beautiful waterfall, river and more carvings.

The next day, we went to Goa Gajah, an elephant cave, built in the 11th century and was once the home of a buddhist priest. Outside of the cave is a 1000 year old statue of the demonic goddess hariti, who once devoured children but later converted to Buddhism and became their protector. Above the cave entrance is a demonic face with bulging eyeballs who frightens away evil.

At Monkey Forest in Ubud we bought a bunch of bananas and walked inside. I took the bananas from Adam and a monkey came right up to me and tugged on my pants. I thought what a cute monkey, then it jumped on my back, i screamed and he stole all of our bananas.
Then, we observed hundreds of monkeys eating and running around the park. Another monkey stole my sunglasses right off of my head and as I tried to get them back a big momma of a monkey hissed at me. I screamed again and walked briskly away. Finally he dropped them and Adam went to retrieve them. I believe I now have a small fear of monkeys.

From there, we went Elephant Riding. Elsa was our elephant and she was super sweet and very talented.

The Para Ulun Danu Bratan Temple might have been the most beautiful temple we saw the whole time. It was way up in the north of Bali, located on the 2nd largest lake. It is here that the Balinese worship the Goddess of the lake, Dewi Danu. the temple was built in the 17th century. It was once only reachable by canoe, but because of environment and deforestization, you can now reach it by foot.

The last place we saw was the Mengwi Pura Taman Ayun Royal Temple. As we pulled up we happened to catch a ceremony taking place. Everyone was dressed in colorful robes and carried umbrellas and offerings to the gods. The battery was very low on our camera, so we didn't catch too much of it. But the Mengwi is surrounded completely by a moat. Within the temple, there are many pagodas which represent the masts of sailboats in the middle of a lake.

We went back to the hotel, went out to a fantastic dinner, slept and the woke early to head to the ferry terminal where we were hounded by people to sell us things and carry our bags for us. We were ripped off and paid 300,000 per person instead of 32,000....but that was another story.

Anyway, Bali was an incredible experience and a most beautiful island. Adam will write a blog on Lombok, the Gili Islands and Taipei soon!

Nov 21, 2009

Taipei and Bali Bound

We are up and about to start packing, we have 4 hours to catch the bus to Incheon, but I wanted to post our basic itinerary of our trip. It is weird because this is the first trip I have not planned to the T. All I know is this is where we are sleeping...not what we are going to do during our days. In all honesty I am really excited about that though. Anyway, in 9 days we will be back with my brother in tow from the airport!

Have a great week everyone.


11/21 Flight 159 EVA Airlines Seoul to Taipei (we are spending the night in the airport hotel)
11/22 Flight 255 EVA Airlines Taipei to Bali
Staying 22nd-25th at the Bhanusawari Resort
Then taking a ferry to Mataran
Staying 25th-28th at Santai Beach Inn
Take a peddle hopper back to Bali Airport
11/28 Flight 256 EVA Airlines Bali to Taipei
Staying the night Dolamanco Hotel
11/29 Flight 160 EVA Airlines Taipei to Seoul

Suncheon makes us famous.......

Last weekend after the food fest on Saturday we took off on Sunday to the town of Suncheon which was about an hour and 20 minute bus ride southeast of Gwangju. Our research had told us that the main attraction of the region was its picturesque fields of reeds that in the autumn time seemed like something worth a closer look.

Once in Suncheon we grabbed the 67 bus that took us to the Suncheon Bay Eco Park which seemed very new. The park featured a museum, observatory and a great boardwalk through the reed fields that led us to a short hill climb to get a birdesye view of the reeds.

After our walk we bought some roasted chestnuts.....

here is Nicole eating her nuts....................anyways......

Unfortunately due a tighter schedule on Sunday we were not able to explore the folk villiage on the other side of town but before we left while we were at the bus stop we became instant television celebs as we were video taped by Suncheon City workers using a new interactive bus-stop information system to be aired in an upcoming local commercial...pretty sweet. Although we both realized after snapping at the film crew for not feeding us M&M's with chopsticks that we weren't cut out for showbiz......

So that was Suncheon, we may go back to see the rest of the town but up next is the latest installment of international adventure....Taipei and Indonesia homeys!!!! So stay tuned and thanks for checkin in ;)

check out all the shots of the day....

Click here to view these pictures larger


Nov 18, 2009

Food Show!

Well, we missed the Auto show a few weeks back which was fairly dissapointing but if there is one thing in this world that i'll get outta bed for other than an imported supercar, its food! So naturally when we were made aware of the 2009 Gwangju International Food Show we decided to check it out!

The event was at the Kimdaejung Convention center last Saturday and featured a pretty wide variety of foods from Kimchi to Cakes. We even had the opportunity to sample some wood juice....yup, tasted just like you would wood. We also tried some interesting squishy garlic that was interesting and supposedly good for you.

Here''s our famous Korean floozy soju ad girl...i just had to take a shot with her....
....i take that back...i'm sure her personality is sparkling.

We also spotted our local coffe shop girl who was in some barista contest....she was visibly embarrased when we freaked out and started waving...but nonetheless, she had meeguk fans ;)

We took a minute to check out the Kim Dae-jung memorial on the way out which was kinda neat. For those who are not familiar, Kim Dae-jung was was president in South Korea from 98-2003 and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his unification efforts with North Korea. It was neat to see all the images his life and the amazing story behind the man. I'll ket wiki enlighten you if you are interested to learn more...

Nov 17, 2009

James Bond, Yu-Na Style

As some of you may know, Adam and I are die hard Bond fans. When we saw Yu-Na Kim's performance in Lake Placid NY being celebrated and talked about here in Korea, we knew it was time to write a blog on their beloved skater.
I grew up watching ice skating in the Bryan Boitano, Elvis Stojko and Nancy Kerrigan days. My Mom and I would hog the TV on the weekends and watch the entertainers. I liked the calm romantic routines but always loved the more hiphop tones they sometimes performed too.
Here in Korea, I believe Yu-Na Kim is 3/4 of my students hero. They have traveled to Seoul to watch her skate and for every 5 essays my students turn in, they somehow work her into their writing. Yu-Na is a 19 year old skater that is now being trained in Canada by Brian Orser, who I remember watching skate with my mom. Yu-na is from Bucheon, South Korea and is I would say a national hero. Her face is similar to Dwight Howard's in Orlando...all over the sides of billboards and in commercials ranging from cell phones to refrigerators. She is the 2009 World Champion. She is the woman's record holder for both the short program and free skating. She is the first female skater to earn more than 200 points and also the first to receive +2.20 grade of execution for jumps. As of today, Yu-Na is ranted second in the world. Carolina Kostner from Italy leads by 51 points.
Yu-Na began skating when she was 7. Her coach encouraged her parents to continue her training because she was such a natural. She has her own signature move which her fans call the Yu-Na Spin.
Yu-Na is sponsored by Nike, Hyundai and Kookmin Bank. For those of you who have heard about the Visit Korea Year 2010-2012 (I know it is two years, thats Korea for ya) Yu-Na is an ambassador.

Below is her perfect 007 Bond Routine, Enjoy

Nov 15, 2009

Dr. Skin

Natalie, a fellow yogi has been talking for weeks about Dr. Skin She has been getting electrolysis for a really inexpensive price. Although electrolysis would be nice, I decided to visit Dr. Skin (really Dr. Shin) for my face. Yes, I am doing a post about something personal...but maybe someone else in the Gwangju area will benefit. I decided, being almost 30, there is no reason for me to still have acne issues, in the same places over and over and maybe the doctor can help me. So I made an appointment. Dr. Shin's office was a twenty minute car ride. My co-worker Sun took Adam and I to the office so she could translate for me. I met with the Dr. He was quite handsome, the picture above is not a very attractive one of him. Anyway, he told me I would have to come once a week for 8 weeks. Every other week I would be getting laser treatment with the Smoothbeam laser and alternating with the Vbeam laser which would take care of any redness and discoloration I have...he made a zap sound and said ow. I took it to mean that this could be a bit painful.

I was immediately led back to a spa atmosphere packed with 6 aesticians (sp?) and 6 beds all filled with women...and me. My appointment began like a typical facial...the painful extraction kind where they wash your face about 15 times with different potions...then the sweet tiny Korean woman went to town and all of you women know what that is like. I swear I had tears pouring out of my eyes. Then, the used a warm and set that over my face for awhile. Then they put some clear gel on my face and I laid there for 30 minutes bored out of my mind. I couldn't sleep and there was no music, they all work in silence. After 30 minutes, I thought I was done when they washed my face yet again. But nope. I was then moved to a new room.
Here I met with the doctor again and he told me ouch and put this gun thing to my face and zap. I felt like a sparkler was inserted into my cheek. He did this about 10 times to different spots on my face then sent me back to the nice room. There my face was washed another few times and I believe they put a mesh cloth then painted a white thick paste on my face which I think after waiting 30 more minutes created a mold of my face that is used between the laser and my skin. I was washed a few more times, neck and scalp massaged then told I could leave.

At the front desk, Sun spoke with the lady. She said it would be a total of 600,000 won, or a little over 500 dollars for the full treatment. They were giving me the redness reducer as a service, or for free. Which has a 300 dollar value...being a foreigner is wonderful. On the way out, Sun commented on the cute doctor and how many women had come and gone while I was in there for 2 hours. I believe that is it worth it. I am not a very vain person nor do I treat myself to too many luxuries. So, I am justifying this one. I do see though how using doctors to change cosmetically is addicting. While I was laying there waiting for one of my masks to dry, I began to think of what else I could do and how cheap it is in Korea to do these things. But, in 8 weeks, once I will never again have to resemble a 15 year old going through puberty...I will stop my visits to Dr. Shin and his amazing abilities.

The plastic surgery business in South Korea is huge. Most doctors hide their true profits from the government since barely anything is covered by insurance. Eyelids are I believe the number one surgery here. Time Magazine Asia says that 1 in 10 adults have had some surgery. Here is an article from the magazine all about the hip asian trend.

In 8 weeks Ill let you know the outcome :)

Nov 13, 2009

Good Morning Pops.굿모닝팝스

Gianna, a coworker of mine, has her nose buried in Good Morning Pops magazine quite often. I asked her to explain to me how it works. The magazine is about the size of a novel and has a coexisting radio station in the morning...or you can download pod casts.

Basically how it works is each edition has parts of a script from an English movie, song lyrics, and a poem. Then, it takes the script, explains what it means and offers different responses and comments you can say based on the line in the script.

For Example...(i couldn't figure out how to get the camera to take a good shot of words) This is from New in Town with Renee Zelweiger. The quote from the movie is, "I think that would be a terrible mistake" Underneath in the box is says things like, "Well, I disagree." Then, Gianna can practice real life conversation. She seems to pick it up really fast and I can tell when we are talking she will say a phrase, instead of just one word which is how many Koreans answer questions. Sometimes though, the book leads her a bit astray. One day she said to me, "Sure as shooting." I was like what??? Sure as shit?

Anyway, the book also has conversation circles, so this one is about babies. It explains words that are associated with a baby and gives you space to write sentences including the words. I personally haven't seen anyone else studying it at work, but I think that these magazines are great!

Pepero Day!

November 11

It is similar to our February 14th in the states, however Pepero Day is a holiday invented with the sole purpose of selling and giving Pepero. It is held on Nov. 11 because 11/11 looks like 4 sticks of Pepero.

The holiday is observed mostly by young people and couples, who exchange Pepero sticks, other candies, and romantic gifts. Lotte denies starting the holiday and instead states that they noticed a bump in Pepero sales around November 11th and after continued popularity they decided to then encourage the holiday with special gift boxes and other promotions. Some consider it to be a contrived holiday and some teachers have encouraged children to exchange healthy snacks to help combat obesity.

According to one story, Pepero Day was started in 1994 by students at a girls' middle school in Busan, where they exchanged Pepero sticks as gifts to wish one another to grow "as tall and slender as a Pepero".

At school, most of the young students came with bags and bags of Pepero for the teachers, you can see my massive stack. Adam got some too, but the kids ate his before he even left the classroom.

What is Pepero you may ask...

Pepero (빼빼로) is a cookie stick, dipped in chocolate , manufactured by Lotte in South Korea since 1983. It was inspired by the Japanese product, Pocky.

As of 2007, it was sold in 10 different flavors:

  • Regular or Chocolate
  • Strawberry-flavored
  • Almond Chocolate
  • Nude (chocolate in the center)
  • Nude Lemon Cheese
  • Cocoa
  • Soft
  • Cheese
  • "Woman in White" and "Man in Black" are slightly more "classy" brands of Pepero, and both have chocolate cookie bits scattered throughout the chocolate dip,

Test Day

I was thinking of recreating this blog for us, because it is such an important day in a Korean child's life...but Brian (a fellow blogger who has over 2,000 posts from Gwangju and our region) did a fantastic job with video and picture...

I am going to give him full is a link to his blog along with pictures and an explanation of the day.

Nov 10, 2009

To Shane Teacher

Here is a sweet note that Cindy wrote to Shane now that she knows he has gone back to America.

A Korean Staple - Pencil Cases

Any teacher here in Korea will tell you about the kids and their pencil boxes. At the beginning of class each student takes out their books and places their pencil box on their desk.

Some pencil boxes are soft, others hard, others are password protected and some are stuffed animals. Some have interesting messages and others have profanity (yes this says "Good Fuck" and yes Paul said he knew what it meant.

Inside you can find many things ranging from non ink highlighters to stickers and of course every eight year old carries with them a box cutter knife.

Just another day in the life of a Korean student. Richie was nice enough to share his smile with you :)

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