Sunday, August 29, 2004

Today we went hiking at Apsan mountain and it was fantastic. It was definitely one of the best days I have had in Korea so far. The sun was shining, Brian and I were both in good spirits and we were excited to spend the day outside. We took a cab to the base of the mountain and hiked up a long path to a cable car. We took the cable car up (for a mere $4 I might add. It made Sulphur Mountain's $20 cable car look even more outrageous)and could see over the entire city of Daegu. It was gorgeous. There was a slight breeze at the top of the mountain and we had lunch looking out over the valley. We hiked along the ridge and visited a fortress from the Silla period (approx 600 C.E) which I thought was incredible. I have always loved visiting old places and this was exceptionally old. I have said this before but it really bugs me how western-centered our perspective of history is. The people here were fighting wars and building fortresses far before any European had set foot on American soil and more people never even learn about it. It's aggravating to me, I can only imagine how I would feel if I were Korean.

After walking the ridge for a few hours we took the cable car back down and went for a walk in the woods. We cam across a Buddhist temple nestled on a hill next to a stream. It was beautiful. There were some monks walking in the courtyard and the whole place was covered in a blanket of silence. It was a comfortable and calm quiet though and I felt very peaceful staring up at the huge temple walls. The colours and designs of the temples here are really beautiful and inspiring. We could see a huge golden Buddha statue inside one of the buildings and you could smell incense and the smell of the pine trees. I could have laid down in the rocky courtyard for hours. We spoke to one of the monks and he informed us that he had been to Vancouver and thought Canada was very beautiful. The monk said he had been to Whistler even! Brian started to imitate a skier and said "Do you ski?" The monk just smiled and said, "I Snowboard actually." Ha! It was so funny.

We walked home from the mountain and past Camp Walker, which is a huge American military base here in Daegu. We passed a seafood restaurant with display tanks in the front and we saw the biggest crabs we have ever seen. They were huge! The woman came out from the shop and told us they were 5 kilograms! I don't know if they were a special Korean crab or if they were from the same coral reefs where Japan does its nuclear testing but they were gigantic!

What a fantastic day...

Friday, August 27, 2004

Koreans, women in particular, are obsessed with mirrors. And I mean obsessed. Everywhere you go you can see them looking in their little compact mirrors. They fix their makeup, the pick at their skin, they adjust stray hairs, the purse their lips and they do it for 5-10 minutes at a time. If they don't have a mirror nearby (which appears to be a rare crisis) they will whip out their cellphones and take pictures of themselves and then fix whatever minute flaw they detect and take another picture until they look perfect. It happens in school, walking down the street, in the movie theatre (some of the mirrors have little lights on them...the fact that if you need a light for your mirror, nobody can actually see your face seems irrelevant) and everywhere in between. Just an observation.

Today our school had a mini-crisis. The taxman was rumoured to be making the rounds of the hagwons (Korean for private english schools) and was headed towards Ding Ding Dang. Before Brian and I knew what was happening, we were hiding folders, throwing out papers, and scratching out words in our private diaries. It was hilarious. Apparently we have more classes than we are allowed and so there are a number of secret classes that technically don't exist (I teach about 3 or 4 secret classes). We had to remove all evidence of the classes - that meant schedules, folders and kids. If the taxman shows up while classes are in session the kids are told to run outside. I'm not kidding. I told the teachers not to worry about my class schedule, that it had been tucked away safely in my bookbag. Not good enough, they said. Apparently the gustapo taxmen are legally entitled to search our personal property. I offered to eat my schedule and for a few seconds I think they were actually considering it as an option. Yeesh. At any rate, the taxman never showed and everything will be back to normal tomorrow. It kind of makes me want to call in a "tax threat" every once and awhile to keep things interesting at work.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Scientists have discovered a new tribe (The Piraha) in the Brazilian jungle that doesn't use numbers. They don't have any counting or number system. Think about that for just a's incredible. No time, no calendar, no counting, no money, no age...nothing. I can't even imagine what that would be like. They are the only numberless group (so far) known to researchers. They also have no written language, no distinct words for colours and no oral history. They do not have a creation myth and they never sleep for longer than two hours at a time. Some scientists have been quoted as saying the tribe might as well be a group of aliens. I think that's pretty darn interesting. From a neuroscience and philosophical perspective it gets even more interesting. Apparently they are unable to learn how to count or to understand the concept of numbers, no matter how long they try to learn. It is as though they have passed a critical period for learning numbers. Of course, many people have argued in the past that language shapes the brain and that what language you learn will affect your view of the world. In recent years that theory has lost favour and scientists argue that all human brains are primed to learn a language but that which language is learned is irrelevant. Now, this new tribe is shaking up that theory. If the language you learn has no numbers then apparently your brain loses it's ability to comprehend numbers and this loss appears to be permanent. The ramifications of this for education and child development are pretty impressive. It also might explain why I am so bad at math...maybe I am 1/16 Piraha.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Today we went to Seomun Market and, dare I say, to Wal-Mart. From one extreme to another! Seomun Market is a traditional Korean market and sold, well, everything. Seafood, vegetables, fruit, herbs, clothing, textiles, housewares, animals...if you can imagine it, it was there. We found the area where all of the animals were waiting to be slaughtered (our noses found it, our feet followed...reluctantly). There were ducks, rabbits, chicken, kittens and puppies. It was really amazing to see. (Sorry, I have pictures but they're not up yet...I will link to them soon.) It was pouring today but even in the greyness the market was a dazzling display of colours. And sounds and smells. I brought my MD and managed to catch some of the if I can just find a speaker cord in this country I can do some editing. Anyway...different story. (We have narrowly escaped a tangent.) We walked around the market and bought a few odds and ends. I bought a pair of Nike pants for $10. I'm pretty sure they aren't Nike since they are "made in the USA". Oh, the irony. I come to Korea to buy Nike that claims to have been made in the States. What a crazy world.

After the market we went to Wal-Mart. We weren't too sure what to expect but it was pretty standard and actually less abrasive then I expected. It's the only Wal-Mart in the world that sells locally made products.

Daegu was one of the host cities of the 2002 Soccer World Cup and the evidence can be seen all over the city. Everywhere you look there are soccer-ball shaped garbage cans and flower pots. It's hilarious. It's interesting because you never see the after-effects of a huge event like the World Cup or the Olympics. All of the primping and preening and what's left at the end of it? A billion dollar deficit and thousands of rusting soccer ball garbage cans.

Friday, August 20, 2004

I drank maekolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, with Mr. Lee tonight. Brian went to play cards with the "boys" and so I had the house to myself. I went downstairs to buy a beer (because if what the boys do is sit around and play cards, then what the girls do when they are left alone is drink beer and watch Sex in the City) and ended up drinking some wine concoction out of a rusted teapot in the company of two intoxicated men who don't speak English. Well that's not entirely true. They can say "Korea Number One!" and "ping-pong". Let's just say that I have never been so enthusiastic about ping-pong. The wine was good, the company, a little awkward. Not as awkward as the last paragraph but close enough.

I joined a gym this week and I am really loving it. Tonight after work I went to a stretch class. I was joined by about a dozen middle-aged women and two men wearing dress pants. The teacher is about the same age as me and has decided that we will be friends. I knew this was the case when she started to rub my feet during the relaxation part of the class. At first I thought it was just part of your typical Korean stretch class but then I noticed that nobody else's feet were being rubbed. Hmmm...the squeaky wheel gets the grease?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A typhoon hit Daegu last night. I knew something was going on because the creepy-nuclear war speakers that hang on poles over every street were blaring something in a soothing voice. Probably something like, "Don't panic..stay indoors..." etc. What concerned me is that they could have been calling for an immediate evacuation in the face of a Armageddon-sized Tsunami and I would have been thinking how quaint it all was. Yeesh.

I went to work today and it was pouring rain (what else would it be pouring I suppose). The men in Korea smoke like chimneys (women smoke too but it is not acceptable for them to be seen smoking in public)and I got such a kick out of watching them smoke today. One hand on a giant umbrella, the other holding the cigarette. It's the most natural thing in the world.

Just an observation: Couples wear matching shirts here. I don't mean the "my husband and I entered the Kokanee Seniors golf contest and so we both have the same shirt" kind of thing, I mean real couples. A lot of them. Young couples, even cool shirts. Matching. Just so you know.
I am addicted to gimchi. Now, had you told me back home that within a month I would be craving a spicy, fermented cabbage dish for breakfast I would have laughed in your face. And here I am. I

I have to do telephone teaching a couple of times a week at my school. The idea is essentially to get the kids used to talking on the phone. It's an exercise in futility really because they have to answer questions that are basically pulled right from class so there is no spontaneity at all. Except for my preschool class. Tonight I called them and when I spoke with Hans and asked him what his favourite meat was he replied, "Caroline-teacher is my favourite meat." At first I thought he hadn't understood the question, "No, meat Hans." "I know teacher. I am a monster. I eat people." Oh. My bad. I think that is the reason I love my preschool so much. They are still thinking for themselves. Hans also spent all day trying to look down my shirt but I can take the good with the bad. :-)

I started back at the gym this week and in typical Caroline style I went crazy and worked out way too hard. It's not really my fault. The Olympics were on the TV over the treadmill. I was watching the athletes and running my ass off. I just couldn't bear to let down my country...ahem. I mean if they can do it, so can I right? It doesn't matter that they have been in training for years and I am a recovering sloth. At any rate, I can't really move today.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Last night we went out for Ryan's birthday, It was lots of fun and the Korean teachers from school all came as well. I really like all of the people I have met here so far. It sucks that Andrea and Ryan are going home in September. Ah well, what can you do? The Korean teachers will of course be here for the length of our stay. They are a lot of fun.

We came home and watched the opening ceremonies this morning. They were incredible! The first time we watched, the announcer was speaking Korean. The second time we watched it was on NBC with Katie Couric and Bob Costos. It was everything I hate about American Olympic coverage. First Costos said that everyone knows Suriname isn't really here to win a medal. Then he proceeded to discuss the colorful (and might I say, beautiful) traditional costumes of Azerbaijan and said "If you are gonna wear something like that you better be prepared to just strut your stuff because that's all you can do" and then, when the IOC President addressed the crowd good 'ol Bob commented, "...the speaker has switched to English, much to the audiences relief." Right because of all the 202 countries in attendance, who would speak French? What a jerk.

Anyway, back to a more positive perspective. The ceremonies (sans Bob) were just stunning. I can't even imagine being able to conceive of something so elaborate, let alone implement it! It made me cry (because the Olympics always make me cry) and I felt so proud to be...alive. I know, it's weird. But with the emphasis on Greek history I sat in awe watching how far humanity has come and how much we have accomplished and it made me feel proud to be a part of it. It's nice to focus on the all the good man has done, because we are often bombarded with all the bad. It was very moving and I am glad I got to see it.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Here is yet another installment of Korean ingenuity. You can order food in the park here. You can call them up and say bring some food to the 3rd bench after the Magnolia tree and they will bring it. Not only will they bring it, it will come with various side dishes and stainless steel bowls. They will return when you are finished to pick up the bowls and leftovers, free of charge. How cool is that?

This morning when I was walking to work I noticed a woman struggling trying to pick up a large metal sign on the sidewalk. I went to help her lift it and noticed that it was a "No Parking: Tow Zone" sign. The damn thing was blocking where she wanted to park. Now, who could be so inconsiderate as to place a no parking sign right in front of a bank, right where this poor lady wanted to park her car? Right on the sidewalk where people walk? I mean, that's just rude.

For the past few days the main story in the Korea Herald has been about Chinese-Korean relations. They are not doing so well and it's all because of the ancient city of Goguryeo. The city, which is now part of Manchura is claimed by Korea as an important part of their history. A couple of weeks ago, the Chinese government removed all references to Goguryeo from their section on Korean history. China also said the move was a precursor to a similar revision of history in their state school books and all official documents. The Korean government freaked out. They have set up a commitee to examine other country's history textbooks to ensure they do not follow China's lead. (Bad news: Korea isn't in other country's textbooks) They are threatening cutting ties with China and instituting sanctions. Just in case you were curious, the city in question existed from 37 B.C. to 668 A.D.
It is also located in what is now North Korea so it's inaccesible to a lot of Koreans. Don't get me wrong, the city is a big part of Korean history since it was the gateway for Buddghism into the peninsula but I am surprised at the intensity of the reaction. It's not the first time one country has attempted to revise the history of another. Heck, it happens all the time. America is revising it's own history right now (pretty soon no one will ever remember that weapons of mass destruction were part of the equation in going to Iraq.) Let China say what it's not like anyone is really going to believe them.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

We had the biggest bug in our house tonight! After being in Africa, I don't think I am particularly squemish about bugs but this one was big. And it flew. It's the flying that bothers me. One time I tried to get away from a moth so quickly that I did a backwards flip over my coffee table and broke the table leg. I hate moths. But I digress...

So I saw this big, flying, cockroach type thing and Brian was man enough to try to catch it. I screamed like a girl and jumped up and down and he caught the bug in a Tupperware container. I am so ashamed...just when I think I have conquered all things "girly" out pops a bug-squeeler. Who knew?

View the whole event here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I have had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I am a teacher. I always fought with my teachers growing up and now I am one. Wait, it gets worse. Today I was a substitute teacher. They sent me to another school in Bongduck to teach until their new foreign teachers arrive. It was really weird. It's a Ding Ding Dang school too (the chain is really big - more than 20 schools just in this city) so the textbooks were the same and so were the techniques, rules etc. It was sort of creepy to be thrown into a building that sortalooks like where I work , with kids who look a lot like the kids I teach and play the same games and read the same books and get the same puppet answers to "Hello" and "How's the weather". It was a little "Twilight Zonish".

I had a student today who was wearing a pipe around her neck. I saw the cannabis leaf as clear as day and couldn't help but ask her where she got her "necklace". "Expo" she replied. "Oh, it's really nice. What does it do?" (looking at the obvious holes in each end and the reservoir on one side) "It is necklace." she said with a silent "stupid" thrown on the end. She must have been 11 at the most. Too funny.

There is a big case going on here right now because of cell phone tracing. I'm really anti-cellphone, so I don't know if they have this at home or not, but here they can detect where you are when you answer your phone. Apparently the parents here love this feature because as soon as their kids answer their phone they can pinpoint exactly where they are. I have parents calling their kids all the time at school just to make sure they are there. Anyway, Samsung Korea is in hot water for tracing the wherabouts of their employees. They men were suspected of trying to start a union (heaven forbid!), so the company started tracking where they were going, whether/where/when they were meeting etc. The employees only noticed something was up when some suspicious charges showed up on their bill. Very Orwellian.

What do you call a chicken who is too smart to cross the street?
A Rhodes Scholar. Ha! Ha!

I went to the Post Office today to mail a little package off to my Grandma. The people in the PO were all wearing the nicest uniforms - they looked so professional compared to the grumpy ladies at Shopper's Drug Mart back home. After asking what was in the package (which I found amusing since I could have said "an automatic weapon and some Anthrax spores" and they would have just smiled and nodded)they proceeded to rifle through a book looking for the shipping cost. A few minutes went by and I could see the confusion growing. More and more people showed up to look at the mysterious package and the equally mysterious book. Eventually an English speaking woman asked me, "Ahh, what country is Scotland in?" Hmmm, yup...that might be the problem. Apparently they have no concept of the United Kingdom or the E.U. I know this because I have to teach English geography to my kids using a map that has no France, Spain or England. We managed to get it sorted out (they understood the "UK") and they charged me a whopping $2.00 to ship my parcel. Now let's just hope it gets there.

I have a class with a kid called Jae. He is in a special class for kids who have "graduated" from Ding Ding Dang and his English is excellent. It's a fun class to teach because you can have a real conversation. Jae lived in North Carolina for a year so he not only knows the language but he knows a lot of the slang and some pop culture. I asked him to write me a composition about an interesting 10 minutes in his life. This is what I got:

An interesting thing I did today was pull off my Mom's white hairs. I curl the hairs around me finger and pull them out. She gets white hairs because she is 40. She pay me 50 won for each one. Sometimes I pull out a black hair. If I do that she - 50 won.

It took everything I had not to laugh my head off. Something tells me that Jae's mother didn't check his homework before he left for school today!

The Korean teachers had grapes at school today and I couldn't believe how they were eating them. They suck the grapes out of their skin and spit the skins into a big bowl. When I told them we ate the skins at home, they looked at me like I was a total nutjob. They also cut their doughnuts into itty-bitty pieces...with scissors.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

I went to a store called Hot Tracks today - it's a huge place full of thousands of different notebooks and coloured pencils. This country is a stationary lovers dream. Hot Tracks also sells music. You are never going to believe what I found in the New Release seriously. New Kids on the Block. They put out a new album of their greatest (and not so great) hits. Could life get any better?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Korean peninsula is divided by a demilitarized zone or DMZ. The strip of land is 4 km wide and 240 km long from coast to coast. It was created in 1953 when an armistice ended the Korean War. Because the two Koreas are still technically at war, the zone remains enclosed in barbed-wire fences, dotted with land mines and guarded by thousands of soldiers. Ok, so far, nothing really new right? So here we go...

In 1955, the two Koreas decided to each build "model" villages on their side of the DMZ. The idea was that each village would highlight the superiority of their way of life. The Northern village is called Gijeong, the Southern, Daeseong Village. Over the past 50 odd years, each country has thrown wads of cash at their village. The schools in the village have access to technology that other citizens wouldn't even dream of. They compete over everything from the health of their citizens to the height of their flagpole. Only a few hundred people live in each village and the weird thing is, they aren't even really aware of the oddity of their situation. They are rural farmers mostly and have never traveled very far from their respective homes. During the height of the cold war, any furrow(accidental or otherwise)into the DMZ was met with armed confrontation and sometimes imprisonment. The new generation of DMZ villagers have grown up surrounded by barbed wire and have not experienced the tensions often associated with the cold war. Malaria has become an issue because the wildness of the area has provided a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. The citizens must abide by strict rules which include a curfew of 11 pm. They must carry special ID's to gain admittance to their neighbourhood. Every few years someone is maimed or killed by accidentally stepping on a landmine. And yet, the overall population of the village of Daeseong has dropped by only a few people since 1955. The villagers are given special privileges such as provincial tax exemption and release from mandatory military service.

I thought the whole concept was really interesting...I am surprised that people choose to remain there and yet at the same time, I am not. They have reached their goal...they are model citizens.

There was a big protest last week in Seoul...with riot police and everything. Two weeks ago Korea took in it's largest number of North Korean refugees in history. You would think I read about it in the Korean Herald, wouldn't you? I didn't. I read about both in the Globe and Mail online edition. JC.
Tonight when we were walking home we met a group of kids. They were out playing in the was a beautiful summer evening. Everywhere we go here we see children. They play on the streets, they take taxis downtown. It's not that they are neglected or mistreated, that is just the way it is. The kids came up and started talking to us...the typical giggles and mumbled Hello's. Some of them were quite good at English and could carry on a conversation. They are always pleased to hear we are from Canada. One young boy spoke no English at all but his ability to mimic was unbelievable. After hearing an English word only a couple of times he could rattle it off as though he had been speaking it all of his life. They were all very cute. We took some pictures with them and they had a blast looking at themselves on the LCD viewfinder. We had a blast too.

The other day I was walking down the street and two young girls were sitting on a bench on the side of the road. They were watching me (not at all unusual around here...I am tall, white and I have red hair. It's a no brainer really.) As I walked by, one of the girls yelled "I love you!" to which I responded "I love you too." They erupted in fits of giggles. I don't really understand it but that's okay. It made me smile.
I feel like I am facing one of those big life decisions and I have been flip-flopping between two options for the last year or so. A part of me wants to travel and live an independent pen as my sword and all that jazz. I want to tell people's stories from around the globe. I want to eventually work for an international aid organization like Unicef and then the United Nations. I want to live in Australia and in Moscow and in Rome. I want to write books and take amazing photographs. The other part of me wants to be a Mom and have a nice life where the Globe arrives on my doorstep on Saturday morning and I meet my friends for coffee on Sundays. In that life I am working as a communications consultant (or something equally corporate) and I volunteer with the local shelter on weekends. I cook and I have a beautiful garden. I go on nice vacations and I have a wonderful family and at the end of the day I feel lucky but a little bored. At the same time, I know that I tend to romanticize the "Amazonian woman journalist" lifestyle and that I would often feel alone and empty. Or would I? Comfortable mediocrity or lonely ambition? This is the question that I find myself struggling with more than anything else. That and how the hell George Bush is the President of the Free World.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Happy Birthday Craig! I miss you kiddo.

I feel like all I do is work. I get up and and get ready for work. Then I go to work. Then I come home (exhausted) and go to bed so I can get up in time for work. It's not really a bad thing though. After living an unscheduled existence for so long, it's really nice to know what every day will look like. It's refreshing in it's predictability. I guess that's what makes monks become monks. Today I will sit in a cave and eat rice. I will chant and I will meditate and I will sleep. And then I will do it another 29,200 times before I die.

Every day I teach roughly 90 kids. They range in age from about five to 13 or 14. I teach some classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday and other classes on Tuesday and Thursday. I have one class, my preschool class, who I teach everyday. For obvious reasons they are my favorite. They are Hans, Brian, Hoya, Mark and Leo. Hans looks like a mini-Korean version of Don Johnson (circa Miami Vice) with spiked hair and a single gold hoop in his ear. Keep in mind this kid is five. Hoya looks Hawaiian for some reason and is the youngest. Let's just say she's not the smallest or the brightest. She just looks at you with these vacant eyes and every time you ask her a question she responds with "ugly duckling". Apparently that book really influenced her life. Brian is the little joker and he wears a tie everyday. Over his t-shirt. He does this little dance where he sticks out his tongue and wiggles his bum. It's hilarious. Mark is the goody-two shoes and Leo is the nice, sweet kid. Leo is the "cool" kid. He is funny and cute and athletic.They are great.

So I discovered something about myself the other day that came as quite a shock because it goes against everything I thought I knew about myself. I am not a dreamer. I'm a dreamer in many senses of the word but in this particular way I am not. Brian always says things like "Have you ever thought what it would be like to be a rock star/in the NBA/a millionaire"? The answer is usually no. If I imagine doing something I then proceed to figure out what I need to do to accomplish said dream. I have never dreamt of being something, realized it wouldn't happen and then kept on going. (Okay, a couple of times when I was younger I imagined what it would be like to have no legs and so I dragged myself around the house for a whole day, but that's a different kind of dream isn't?) Brian said it was sad. I felt shocked that at 26 I could be confronted with something so novel about myself. Is it sad? I don't know. I think about what it would be like to be a scientist so I do it. I imagined being a journalist so I did it. I have imagined being a doctor and I didn't do it so I consider myself a failure in that regard. I am not a successful journalism grad...I am a failed egyptologist, a failed simian research specialist, a failed actress and doctor and teacher (oh wait -I am doing that now) and a failed politician. Sheesh. What am I going to do about this exactly?
I am sitting here drinking an iced coffee. Koreans apparently love iced's everywhere. It usually comes in little cans and it's quite good. The other day I decided to get one and I opened the cute little fridge I had seen at the corner store everyday...only to find out that the fridge wasn't a fridge. It was a heater! The iced coffees were hot! In a way (a Korean way) this makes sense. You put the can in the fridge - it's cold coffee. You put the same can in a heater? It's hot coffee. Merely another example of Korean ingenuity.

Our friend Eileen got back from Hong Kong yesterday and her legs are covered in bandages. She got such a bad sunburn that she had to bandaged from her toes to her knees...poor thing. She is as white as can be (she is whiter than me even!) and she apparently was only in the sun for half an hour. Yikes. Other than that she though Hong Kong was fantastic. I want to go there...and I want to go to Vietnam, North Korea, Bali, Cambodia, China, Japan, Russia, Mongolia, Guam...any way, you get the idea.

I got my first copy of the Korean Herald yesterday! Yipppeee! It was like Christmas for me. It's not a bad newspaper and it's interesting to read about things going on in Korea and how they perceive international politics. Yesterday there was an article by a professor about America. It was the biggest load of hogwash I have ever read (and I have read a lot of hogwash by the so-called liberal media..ahem, anyway). In it, the man laments the state of Korea and uses the elevators of America and Seoul as an example of contrast. According to him the "hold Open" buttons in America are worn down they have been pushed so much. And in Seoul? The "close doors" buttons of course. He claims that Koreans will slam people in the closing elevator doors rather than be late while Americans will patiently and obsessively open the doors for all those who seek entrance. Puh-lease.

Here is something interesting for my j-school buddies out there (and for other like-minded folk). Remember the South Korean who was beheaded my the Islamic militants? Of course you do. So, they are holding a commission into his death in Seoul and lo and behold if some interesting things have emerged. Apparently, the Associated Press received a 13-minute video showing the man in captivity. They neither informed the Korean government or the man's employer. They sat on it. The first time the government knew the man was being held was the day before he was killed (or so they claim) and when they got wind of the fact that AP had an earlier tape they requested it. What the received was a 4-minute edited version. Strange? You bet.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

We actually left the house today! I know, that's kind of pathetic, but we have both been feeling so crappy. Today we went to the Deagu Tourist Information Centre which is situated in Duryu Park. The park is huge and is really's the Central Park of Daegu(well not really...Central Park is pretty awesome but you get the idea.)

We walked around the park and watched all of the families who were having picnics under the trees. It's really neat here - people seem to have the time to just sit and relax. A lot of people were playing Checkers or different card games. The kids were on rollerblades and the old people fanned themselves or slept on their picnic blankets. The picnic blankets incidentally are all identical and made of silver material. I am assuming they are designed to reflect the sunlight? Anyway, it was very peaceful and a beautiful day to be outside.

The information centre wasn't really all that helpful but they did give us free postcards of Daegu. We bumped into a couple from California last week downtown and they told us to ask for the postcards at the Info. Centre. Apparently they only hand them out to Whities and only upon request. Once again, talking to random people pays off.

Speaking of random people...

So Brian and I went walking tonight in the park and eventually ended up in an area a little more, how shall I say? Korean, than other areas of the park. I had flashbacks of stumbling into a shanty town near Kasane in Botswana. I love those kinds of situations because it offers such a good picture of real life in the country you are visiting. The effect your attitude has on the people around you is amplified in situations like these...such a good experience. Anyway, there was music playing and so we decided to follow it. We came across a group of local elderly people dancing to music being played on the back of a parked motorbike. We stood and watched for awhile before we joined in. It was so great. I danced with the group, which got larger and larger the longer we were there, and Brian took pictures and chatted with the men. They gave us some Soju (more on that in the next paragraph)and gave Brian some dried fish. We danced and laughed and we all really enjoyed ourselves. It was a great time...I was sweating like crazy by the time we left. Dad if you were there, we probably wouldn't ever have left!!

Soju. Ahhh...Korea's national beverage. It's made of fermented sweet potatoes and tastes like a mixture of vodka and formaldehyde. But heck, if you can drink Jagermeister, you can drink Soju. The funny thing is that it's sold in bottles like beer but it's just over 25% alcohol. It's cheap and everyone drinks it. We have been warned of the effects of Soju but have yet to encounter them ourselves...all in good time. Heh, heh.

This country has the best popsicles I have ever had. They are only 50 cents and they are delicious! I should know because I have been living on nothing but for the past three days. Who knew? Korea: undiscovered oasis of all things popsicle-y.

The Korean currency is the Won and it's worth about a tenth of a cent. So 1,000 won is about one dollar Canadian. Here is the weird thing though - their highest bill is a 10,000 note. That means that if you want to carry 200$ around you need at least 20 bills. Does that make any sense?