Thursday, December 30, 2004


On Thursday, we left for Fukuoka, Japan. We boarded the 6:15 train to Busan (which we made by the skin of our teeth - is there any other way?) and hunkered down for the hour and a half kimchi express. Man oh man did the train stink. There is no smell quite as noxious as sour kimchi, garlic and sweaty feet in the morning. Gag.

We arrived at the Busan Harbour and boarded our very James Bondish hydrofoil. The boats are really cool because they actually travel out of the water on three big fins. Prior to this little adventure I had secretly scoffed at people who get sea sick. I couldn't really figure out why. And although I didn't vomit on the boat, I felt like I was going to. It was a pretty cool trip though...the Korean strait was pretty choppy which added to the sense of adventure.

We arrived in Fukuoka and noticed a difference immediately. It was clean and organized and shiny. It was a strange sensation to be around a "foreign language" again and not be able to recognize any words on the street signs or being spoken around you. We took a bus to our hotel, the Clio Court, which was conveniently located across from Hakata Station, the main station in Fukuoka. It was a little gray and rainy but otherwise fairly warm. I was surprised by how much more tropical things looked in Japan compared to Korea. Ther are more palm trees and different flowers and vegetation. They obviously have a more temperate climate in Japan...makes sense.

Our hotel room was pretty nice and was equipped with two pairs of complimentary slippers, pyjamas (I just found out this year that in America they spell it "pajamas". Weird.) and, my personal favourite, a heated toilet seat. That's right. Equipped with a was fantastic. The Japanese sure know how to live. Everything there is equipped with sensors or lasers...I didn't touch a door or push a button once. I didn't have to wipe my own %$# in Japan!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Off to Japan for New Years! I hope everyone has a great time...don't worry, my resolution this year is to write more. Then again, that's my resolution every year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

So, Christmas is nearly here and communism seems to be alive and well in Korea. Well, not communism in the economic sense but in a collectivist, creepy-cyborg kind of way. We are having preschool presentation at the school this week and each class has prepared a play or a speech of some kind. The kids have been drilled for hours each day and know every word by heart. Keep in mind that these kids are five and speaking a second language. Our director comes in to drill them (scream at them) once every couple of days and they have essentially been turned into little Korean robots. the parents will be happy.

Amidst all these enforced Christmas festivities is the song contest. Each class will compete for a pizza party by singing a Christmas carol. The best part of it is that everyone is singing the same Christmas carol. After it was decided that "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" would be the chosen jingle, there was a flurry of practices and more drilling. Teachers went in search of the "official" song actions (which I kindly provided...luckily, the official actions were neatly tucked away in my imagination) so each class could do the same actions, while singing the same words. "But how does one win the contest if everyone is singing the same song?" you may ask...good question. I will let you know as soon as I see the results.

Something tells me that Koreans don't really "get" Christmas.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

An American company is now selling "Canadian Kits" for Americans who don't want to be plagued with policy questions while travelling. Can you believe it?! The kit apparently includes a flag t-shirt, patches for your backpack and stickers for your car. It also encourages the "undercover Canuck" to throw "eh" on the end of their sentences and answer any questions with "Wayne Gretzky". Yeesh...I am glad Canada has managed to escape it caricatured image.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

We went to Seoul this past weekend so that Brian could write his LSAT exam. It was really cool, we travelled up there on the KTX, which the Koreans simply refer to as "super-fast train". It tops out at 328 km/hr which is pretty damn fast. Because the train is actually a few millimeters above the rails (superconduction), it's a very smooth ride. It felt like I was flying, only there was no way I could fall out of the sky. It was perfect.

Brian had his registration sheet with him on the train and so we called the Korean information line to find out what subway stop we needed. Brian asked for the stop closest to Kyunghee University. The woman gave him directions that were in complete contrast with the information provided on the sheet. Hmmm...another Korean goose chase? We called back and after much discussion, determined that there are two Universities in Seoul with similar names: Kyunghee and Kyunghi. Uhh, yah. "Do you go to Harvard?" "No, I go to Harford. But my cousin goes to Harvard." Anyway, we managed to sort it out.

Seoul is pretty cool and I have to say that I enjoyed my visit there. We got stared at a lot less and there were more signs and directions in English. The subways system was fantastic and very easy. We stayed at a cute little yogwan called Motel CoCo and after Brian's test was over we walked into Itaewon. Itaewon is an area (or "gu") in Seoul that basically caters to and consists of foreigners. It was really tippy to see so many different people there; we saw white people, indians, was great! Daegu is a real monoculture so it was a nice change. This diversity also meant ethnic food (yipeee!) so Brian and I headed for our favourite - Thai food. And boy did we find it! It was really great and a nice change from Korean.

After lunch I did some serious shopping. I have developed a thing for Korean pottery and antiques (which are usually Chinese, but that's beside the point) so we went looking in all the antique shops. We found one that was having a huge sale - 30% off everything in the store! I bought a vase, some teacups and Brian finally got his apothecary chest. Mom and Dad are going to freak when they see all the stuff we are bringing with us to Hawaii. We have every intention of dumping all our newly acquired goods into their suitcases. We have until February to accumulate...heh, heh.