Monday, May 31, 2010

A new beach, a new hat, and a margarita!

Yesterday was a sunny Sunday, which we thought would be well spent at the beach.  After cramming five passengers into a taxi and promising we’d give the driver a little extra money for the trouble, we were on our way.  Songjeong was a bit further than the other beaches, but proved to be worth the distance. 
Stepping out of the taxi and on the hunt for beach towels, we popped into a local store and browsed our options.  We didn’t find a towel we liked, but a co-worker and I did find some adorable hats.  Upon learning their cost was a mere 3,000 won (about three dollars), we purchased those and headed for the sand.

Once we scoped out a spot to sit on the beach, we realized it was windier than we thought.  But it was still quite beautiful.

Although it was obviously a little too sunny for some...

Ryan tested out his fishing pole.

I did this.
There were a fair amount of surfers, swimmers, and many families taking advantage of the nice pre-summer weather.   

But they were given a friendly reminder not to smoke, like many people do everywhere here.

After we’d gotten our fill of the wind sand blowing into our ears, we decided to head for a bite to eat at Blowfish.

Just across the street from the beach, the bar caters to foreigners with a small menu offering burgers, nachos and (drum roll please)……… margaritas!  I was ecstatic to find my favorite drink in a land where limes appear to be non-existent.  By no means am I suggesting that the margarita I was served had lime juice in it, but it was a kind of margarita nonetheless.

Ryan tried a burger, accompanied by chips and salsa, and said it was delicious.  It boasted real cheese and was flame broiled, unlike other burgers he’s tried here.

Of course Ryan played some darts.

And did I mention there was a margarita?!

Upon leaving Blowfish, we took a scenic walk up a rocky hill and found our way to a small gazebo, which was "under construction," but had a nice view.

Past the gazebo was an intricate path lined with greenery, which was refreshing since it’s seriously lacking here.  After coming full circle back at the foot of the hill, we crammed five people into a taxi again and made our way home to wash the sand from our hair. 

And did I mention there was a margarita?!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gimhae with the kiddies

On another beautiful day last week, we again boarded the shuttle busses, and set off with the kindergarten students for Gimhae, about an hour from Busan. 

After the hot and bumpy ride, we walked through a grassy field and into a small greenhouse.  

Each student took a spot at a table lined with mossy plants and waited for instructions.  An enthusiastic woman explained to the children that they would be making a teddy bear topiary. 
She encouraged each student to squeeze the water out of their plant and shape it into a ball. 
She then came around and encased each plant with tightly wrapped string.  Following that, the students stuck on small balls of mossy dirt for ears, and little plastic screws to represent eyes and a nose.  The final touch was a bow, making the creation a trendy bear.  The bears were almost as adorable as the proud students themselves.

Once the creations were complete, we found a shady picnic area where the teachers and students ate lunch together.  

We were provided with the traditonal Gimbap also known as Kimbap, similar to sushi, with rice, crab and vegetables rolled in seaweed and more fresh fruit than we could eat.  We had our first watermelon slices of the season and some delicious golden kiwi.  

After lunch was free time for the kids.  Although it was quite warm, the kids weren’t low on energy and had a wonderful time in engaging in play time in the field.  

We headed back to school and into a three day weekend.  More on that to come!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bippity Boppity Booyah

Our school had planned a field trip a few weeks back that ended up falling through.  On Monday of last week, we got the news that it had been rescheduled for Tuesday.  We packed into the school’s shuttle buses on the gorgeous sunny (and humid) morning.

We arrived at a simple theater, and herded the kindergarten students into their front row seats to watch “Cinderella.”  

 Soon the lights went down, and the production began.

Being well versed in Cinderella’s story, Ryan and I were able to follow the play, though it was all in Korean.  Well, almost all.  A goofy, albeit entertaining jester/narrator/fairy-godmother (so it was a low budget production) attempted to involve the kids in a chant of “Bippity, boppity, booyah,” among others.  They loved it.

After the curtain closed, we stepped into the sunshine and had a picnic lunch in front of the theater.

After lunch, Ryan engaged in his usual game of tag with the students.

He allowed himself to be fed their leftovers.

And he allowed some nose smashing as well.

I stayed out of the dusty play area, and enjoyed the company of the adorable kiddies.

Too soon it was time to head back to school.  For the rest of the week, “Bippity, boppity, booyah” was heard through the halls at school.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Going to the Doctor: from Ryan's point of view

For the last few weeks I (Ryan) had been fighting a cough and cold.  I thought that like most colds it would pass in a week.  But after almost a month it was still persisting.  I tried to blame various sources for the lingering cold such as children and poor air quality.  Whatever the cause, the cold was still there.  I had been avoiding a trip to the doctor because I had no idea where one was or how I'd go about it.  But, after a month the time had come.  I decided to try to find a doctor and get some help.  Luckily we have some great Korean co-workers that speak very good English.  They are a big help with translating for us when needed.  Based on one of their recommendations, I headed out in search of a doctor’s office.  

Between our apartment and school I came across three pharmacies and could see numerous crosses that looked like hospitals.  When Koreans get sick they always talk about going to the "hospital."  I was a bit skeptical of going to a hospital about a cold, but maybe this would help explain that.  I had a recommendation for a doctor’s office near the school so I started looking there.  I didn't have luck finding that particular office so I stepped into a pharmacy and asked where a doctor was.  They got the gist of it and pointed next door.

Sure enough, there were some green crosses and even a sign stating “internal medicine clinic” on the building next to the pharmacy.   

Inside, the receptionist/ nurse spoke no English.  Cue the Korean help.  After a quick phone call to a co-worker I was in.  Luckily the doctor spoke pretty good English (very big help).  After a few quick questions we landed on bronchitis.  Not great, but not a huge deal as I have had this before.  I wasn't too worried.  A prescription for some anti-biotics and maybe another pill or two to take and I’d be on my way.  That’s where I was wrong.  The doctor recommended an anti-biotic, another medicine and no drinking, just as I thought he would.  But, not quite as I thought, the anti-biotic came as a shot in the rear.  Of course, the doctor did not go about giving me this shot, his twenty something female receptionist/ nurse asked me in hand signals to “drop my drawers.”  After that I proceeded to get my prescription paper from the same girl.  The doctor asked that I come back to his "hospital" in two days as he was only giving me an Rx to last through then.  So that explained the hospital bit.  They don’t have “doctor’s offices” in Korea they have “hospitals” on every corner.  So, after  ten interesting minutes at the “hospital” I paid my 4,500 won (~$4) and I headed to the pharmacy next door to fill the given prescriptions.

At the pharmacy I handed over the paper and the pharmacist went to work.  I heard multiple bottles opening and closing and a few cabinets being visited.  After a few minutes she returned with a handful of meds.
Keep in mind this is for two days and after that I had to go back to get more.  I was a bit skeptical of all of the different pills but as they say… “when in Korea.”  The pharmacist made me take the first dose right then and there with a hot bottle of Echinacea tea.   I paid my 4,000 won (~$3.50) and was out of there. 

After three trips back for the same treatment I was feeling a bit better.  The doctor said that if I felt better after the next two days I could stop coming in.  So you guessed it.  I did not make any more trips for shots and meds.  I am feeling much better now.  It must have worked!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thoughts on Mother's Day

There is something special about a mother. 

She is a woman who sits up with you all night when you’re sick, doing everything in her power to make you feel better.  She is a woman who remembers your favorite meal and will go out of her way to gather and cook all the ingredients for that meal, even though you’ve long since left the house.  She is a woman who is so selfless that she takes care of every detail before and during your wedding, to make sure you have the perfect day.  She is a woman who creates personalized gifts just for you, which encase all her talent and love.  She is a woman who insists that you: drink your milk, take your vitamins, eat your fruit, wear sunscreen and remember that "you'll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar."  She is a woman who scours every store in town collecting all the items you’ve requested be sent from the US to Korea.  A mother is an amazing woman.

This isn’t the first Mother’s Day we’ve been unable to see our moms in person.  However, we are as far away now as we’ve been from them at any given time.  What this trip has taught us (among many things) is that geographical closeness (or in this case distance) doesn’t determine the strength of a relationship.  The older we get, the more we appreciate our mothers and the closeness we have with them. 

We want to wish our moms a Happy Mother’s Day.  Linnea, Sarah, Jeana: We’re thinking of you today and we love you always.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

¿Tacos y la playa? ¡Si por favor!

By month two, our craving for Mexican food had gotten out of hand.  We were ecstatic when we discovered a “Mexican” restaurant practically right outside of our apartment.  Upon closer inspection however, we realized it was simply a Korean restaurant.  Oh I'm sorry, a Korean restaurant with chicken.  The nerve.

You may ask, why not prepare Mexican food at home?    We managed to find tortillas a month and a half in, the cheddar cheese that we discovered at Costco has been replenished twice and salsa and tortilla chips are available.  However, some fundamental components of a true Mexican meal are still missing.  The one time we found black beans (other than kidneys) they were over $20.00 for less than half a pound.  Sour cream is available at Costco, but only in EXTRA large quantities.  Have I mentioned our cold food is stored in something only slightly larger than a mini fridge?

When our co-worker told us there was a fairly authentic Mexican place in town, we asked that he alert us to his next trip so we could tag along.  Last Saturday he delivered on his promise. 

Resembling nothing more than a literal hole in the wall, Taco SeƱora was a fifteen minute bus ride away.  Located near the popular Hauendae Beach, it’s one of those places you wouldn’t see unless you knew it was there.  Down an alley we went, and soon we arrived at the simple stand.

A menu outside advertised the goods.

Inside, the female middle aged owner worked behind the counter, serving the two current patrons at a narrow bar top with seats for eight.  Another menu revealed Mexican beer was also served here.  ¡Sauld!

From floor to ceiling, the walls were littered with post-it notes, (mostly in English) from past diners.  They proclaimed “Greatest Mexican food in Busan”, “Matt and Alicia’s one month anniversary”, and “My mother thinks I’m at a convent in the South of France.”

Someone before us had staked their claim to Oregon.

When we saw the unfortunate signature of a future OSU Beaver, we knew we had to take action.

After ordering our taco and burrito, we anticipated the first bite.  When the food came, I was impressed.  It looked like Mexican food, and it smelled like Mexican food.  We took our first bites and it tasted like Mexican food too!  Success!!

After we’d gotten our fill, we decided to head down to the beach.  On our way through some tented vendors, we saw these poor guys in nets directly in the sun.  Dinner?  As we were leaning in to get a good look, one attempted a jumping escape, and just about made us jump out of our skin.

Next door to the frogs, we spotted a vast selection of dry beans and rice.  We were on the hunt for garbonzos, which we’re told are available on rare occasions, but have had no luck as of yet.  We did however locate some reasonably priced dry black beans there.  (YAY!)

We purchased the beans and continued toward the beach. 

Although it was windy, the weather was beautiful.

So was the beach!

We’re told that in the summer months, umbrellas fill the sand and it’s crammed with people.  If we want to visit Hauendae we better get there early.  It’s the most popular beach in Korea.  We may stick with Gwangali, the beach we visited Sunday.  Weather permitting, we’ll be at one of the two on Wednesday, which we have off for a holiday.  
¡Y mas tacos pronto!