Thursday, October 13, 2011

Endless Opportunities to Exercise

Even when I'm not walking up and down the big hill to my apartment, there are so many opportunities to exercise here. From walking to the subway, catching the bus (and hanging on! once you're inside), and exploring the many areas of Seoul, my muscles have been getting a workout. I've been trying to eat healthy to get in shape. Thin is in here and the pressure to be super slim is overwhelming to Koreans here. Several teachers in my school skip breakfast and even lunch (or eat a super light meal) to stay figure perfect. For myself, being healthy is a goal-- not to be super slim.

After a meeting in a middle school the other day, I discovered a really awesome outdoor workout area. It's like an adult playground! I'm loving these outdoor workout centers. Why can't the rest of the world have these? I saw some on my trip to China earlier this year... but what about the other countries?? Seriously, it's a great idea!

Outdoor Workout Park in Seoul, Korea

Friday, October 7, 2011

Phone and Fire in the Night

Woke up to the smell of smoke tonight. I did what people are supposed to do... touch the walls to see if they are warm... I was also thinking about what I should grab if the fire alarm were to start blaring any second. Upon opening my apartment door, I saw a smoky hallway... definite cause for alarm. After talking with another resident, I learned that there had been a fire just outside the window. I saw the firetruck outside just as it began to pull away. I'm so glad they got here when they did. Otherwise, who knows what could have happened!

On a brighter note, I got a phone tonight as well. At least I would have been able to dial 119 if I needed to!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Weekend in Gyeongju

I spent the weekend in Gyeongju, a coastal city located 370 km (230 miles) southeast of Seoul. I travelled with a group organized through which was great, because the organizer bought the train tickets and booked the accommodation in advance. We took the KTX (Korea Train Express) to Gyeongju, which took just over 2 hours. It could have been 2 and a half... I wasn't really paying attention. The nice thing about travelling in a group is that you always have someone to talk to, making it feel like you're not on a train at all. We sat around the table seats in the train that are found in the center of each train car. So, really, it was like chatting with friends in a cafe or something. Note to discount hunters: these middle table seats are available at a 30 percent discount. However, you do need to buy the seats in groups of four... one of the reasons our group had 12 people in it-- a multiple of 4!

There are many sites to see in and around Gyeongju. Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, two of the must sees in the area, are designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Anapji Pond and the oldest observatory in southeast Asia are also worth seeing. While visiting the Confucian School, our group had the privilege of witnessing a real, traditional Korean wedding. The school does host a wedding festival in the afternoons to showcase Korean weddings. However, one of the Koreans in our group confirmed that the wedding we observed was, in fact, real. I'm glad the wedding party weren't offended by us wedding crashers. I guess it's to be expected when getting married in a public venue that isn't closed to the public.
At Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, Korea

A bell you can ring at Seokguram Grotto

Wedding Party at Confucian School in Gyeongju

Stairs at Bulguksa Temple

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Baking Soda and Vinegar

A funky smell has been coming from my apartment's sink lately. Luckily, help wasn't far off (the internet is great). After reading various sites and blogs, one person recommended pouring baking soda down the sink and rinsing it down with vinegar. Easy enough, right? Well... not exactly.

Sure, baking soda is relatively easy to find. The Arm and Hammer trademark is easy to spot. Vinegar, on the other hand, is a challenge. The first store I went to only had baking soda. When I asked the clerk if he had vinegar, he said he didn't know what vinegar is? I began gesturing with my hands: "When baking soda and vinegar come together, they bubble." No luck.

I went to a bigger store and had a look around. I found a large clear bottle. But, when I tilted the bottle, the contents were much too thick. A smaller bottle next to it with the same Korean text, had "Korean corn syrup" below it. Whew! Glad I didn't buy a few litres of corn syrup!

After consulting with my phrasebook, I discovered that vinegar is pronounced sheek-cho. And, to say, "Do you have...?" (or, literally, Is there...?) you say innayo. So, putting the two together I asked the clerk at a bigger store sheek-cho innayo? (object comes before verb in Korean) and was taken to a whole selection of vinegar bottles.

Note to those who seek vinegar: Vinegar comes in smaller bottles here that sort of look like canola oil bottles. And, to make the whole process even more confusing, vinegar can be found among an assortment of oils.

Baking Soda and Vinegar in Korea (Doesn't the vinegar bottle look like oil

I would love to report that the smell is completely gone. It's better but I'll try this a few more times.

**Please let me know if you have a technique that has worked for you.