Halloween Korean style

Halloween is not widely celebrated in Korea…but foreigner-wise, it was the busiest I’ve ever seen downtown. I think I saw every person I’ve ever met in Daegu and then some.  What can I say, westerners love dressing up and boy, did we. Because Halloween is not all that popular here there are zero costume shops– everyone had to get really creative or order off the internet 🙂

A very fun night indeed…in fact I had so much fun I broke my glasses and my camera but I did manage to get a few pics before my misfortunes:

My lovely co-workers

We had a Halloween party at my school. The kids don't really get what Halloween is but they didn't oppose games and candy.

Nic and I decided to play up the couple outfits that are so popular among young Korean couples. We had matching tattoos and we were a lesbian couple which is not popular among young Korean couples.

Brad went as Fan Death. Most Koreans believe that if a fan is left running at night while you’re sleeping it will suck the oxygen out of the room and you’ll suffocate. Koreans take it very seriously and all fans sold in Korea come with an automatic timer that will shut your fan off at night!

I say this after every Halloween….but I wish there were two Halloweens a year!

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GlobalGathering 2010

GlobalGathering holds concerts devoted to electronic music all over the world. The concert in Korea was held in Nanji Park right on the Han river in the heart of  Seoul. To get there we left on an 8am bus arriving at the fest for 1pm and we didn’t leave Seoul until 6am the next morning. It was a very long day to go without sleep or a shower but oh so worth it. The line-up included Fatboy Slim, Armin VanBuren and Justice, who happens to be one of my favorites! Last year, the headliners were Röyksopp (another fave), MSTRKRFT, Prodigy and some popular K-pop bands such as 2NE1 and G-Dragon. The festival pulled an interesting crowd to say the least. Met lots of international people as well as some less conservative Koreans. The food was awesome, well priced, and the alcohol didn’t run out. By 4am I completely ran out of energy…I couldn’t even pretend. My friend has lost her phone and various friends were sleeping in odd positions so we went back to the bus and passed out until departure time 🙂

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A slide show mostly of people passed out and some of the festival.

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Korean DMZ

The Korean DMZ, or the Demilitarized Zone is an area of land that runs along the Korean borders. It’s  4 km wide and it is the most highly militarized border in the world. No one is allowed in the DMZ area with the exception of military, tourists and a few farmers who owned the land before the Korean war. The farmers and tourists must must have military personnel present at all times. Because there is so little movement in the area a few endangered animals including the Korean tiger have found an unlikely haven there. They do however have to share the land with mines that still explode from time to time. There really is no area like this in the world.

Everyone who spends time in Korea visits the DMZ. It was only a matter of time before I made it out there myself. Obviously I knew the DMZ was no joke but I was not prepared for the nail-biting tension and uneasiness that filled the air. It was weird and I’ll never willingly go again! Hopefully some pictures demonstrate the intensity.

 

The viewing point for Kijŏngdong, commonly known as the ‘Propaganda Village’. The only town visible from the South Korea border is actually a non-habited town filled with empty buildings and houses with no windows or interiors. Lights are turned on and off at set times and people are hired to take care of the town to make it look like there is activity. Through the telescopes I saw one vehicle and that was the only sign of life.

 

Four tunnels running from North Korea to Seoul have been discovered. The first tunnel was discovered in 1974 and the fourth in 1990. North Korea claimed the tunnels were for coal mining but the only sign of coal was the black paint the North used to give the illusion of coal. It is suspected that there are more tunnels leading directly to downtown Seoul. A few sections of the tunnels are open to tourists.

 

A train station to North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, is ready to operate once relations improve. I kinda feel this was the South’s way of showing the world that they are ready to re-unite. It’s a nice gesture but I get the feeling it is more for the world media as opposed to North Korea. It is very important to have allies in this kind of situation.

 

 

Many families have been separated over the years and will likely never see or speak to one another again. These fences are lined with endless letters, notes and prays wishing their lost relatives love and health.

 

South Korean soldiers standing on guard in the Joint Security Area or the JSA. The JSA is where all negotiations between the North and South take place. The division between the countries physically run through the middle of these blue houses which are conference rooms. The soldiers used to be able to cross the border freely until the late 1970’s when the Axe Murder Incident happened resulting in two brutal deaths. Tourists are allowed to enter one of the conference rooms and pose for pictures with the South Korean soldiers while technically walking on North Korean ground.

 

On the North side, only one soldier shows half his body. However you can see someone holding binoculars in the window to the right of the solider.  While our group stood there for a few minutes we saw movement on the upper level behind the curtains, every once in awhile a face peering out. I think everyone felt the highest level of tension here. The North does not like the fact that the South does tours and apparently they take photos of the tour groups and use them for propaganda.

 

The Bridge of no Return. On the rare occasion when someone was allowed to leave North Korea, they had to cross this bridge on foot and never return.

The dynamic between North Korea and South Korea is very passionate here. My co-workers, students and Korean friends want nothing more than to help their neighbors to the North but despite their gentleness they wish Kim Jong-il would die a horrible death. It’s hard to really know how life is up there but from the little views we get from the media, it doesn’t seem pleasant. It is possible to visit North Korea if you hold a non-American passport and you fly from China. You would have to go with a tour group, be accompanied by security 24/7 and follow strict rules such as wearing certain clothes and obeying a curfew. As interesting as it would be to visit North Korea my half-American and Iranian blood is enough to deter me. You just never know…

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Beijing Markets…bravery and game necessary

One thing that China does, oh so right, is food. Cheap, hearty and delicious. Well most of it anyways…

This little street offered everything from kebabs to bracelets, fruit skewers to scorpion skewers and every kind of souvenir imaginable. This is after all the land of cheaply made products.

Snake tasted like chicken but chewier ($2)

Large scorpions...I ate the smaller ones.

The Hat Man demonstrated how one hat could be used in so many ways such as a flower vase.

Egg drop soup and vegetables for 4 people ($6)

I don't know who would eat these. Maybe years ago but not today...no no no no!

Beijing noodles ($1)

Starfish and other foul crap.

Sugar-coated fruit skewer ($3)

What I think is a coconut. I saw people holding these "coconuts" and drinking the juice inside through a straw.

I don't eat crab but I do know they are difficult to eat even with the proper utensils so I'm not sure how they are enjoyed as street food.

Melon skewers were nice after walking around on a hot day. ($.50)

Soup ($1)

I don't know what these are but I didn't like them.

Silk Street

Silk Street is the famous market in Beijing that constantly gets sued for their counterfeit apparels. I will never forget the endless aisles of fake brand names but  more so I will never forget the aggressiveness and bartering skills of these people. The vendors speak several languages to accommodate the international clientele. They also try many different tactics to see what will work on you including being flirty or they may try the feel sorry for me tactic pleaing, “I’m so poor, help me out friend.” They grabbed, got up in your face and followed you yelling out prices and pleas. Overall, it was very uncomfortable. They also start at rocket high prices. One woman wanted 400 RMB (aprx. $60) for a fridge magnet.  I only ended up paying 5 RMB ($1) but it was exhausting getting there. If you are going shopping in Beijing, don’t forget to pack your game.

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Beijing

I would like to make a dedication to all the people who pestered me to write a new blog entry. If I had a penny for every time someone said I needed to update my blog, I would have about five pennies, teehee. Anyways, thank-you and this is for you!

Beijing was unlike any other city I’ve ever seen. First impressions– cramped, dirty and big.  Regardless of impressions I gave the city my all…I learned a few words, bartered on Silk Street, ate things one should never eat, experienced the crazy rush hour and even got a Chinese massage (never again!). I visited the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Wafujing Street, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Sqaure, the Olympic Stadium, and saw an acrobatic show all in six days!

A few pics:

Wafujing Street served all kinds of tasty delights (sarcasm) and sold plenty of authentic "Made in China" souvenirs, all of which you had to seriously bargain for.

The entrance of the Forbidden City displays a picture is of former leader Mao Zedong. Across the street is Tiananmen Square, the location of the "Tank Man" incident.

View of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Hill located just north of the attraction.

Summer Palace is where the Emperor's family stayed when they wanted to get away from their downtown palace. It was much prettier than the Forbidden City and more interesting. The first phone connection in China was placed in the Summer Palace thus becoming a hub for military and government officials.

View of Biejing from the Palace. You’re far enough from the city center that you feel as if you are somewhere else. So gorgeous! You could also take a big dragon boat out to the center island, which we so did.

We went to Mutianyu part of the Wall. It was less crowded and came highly recommended from fellow travelers.

Took a cable car up...

...and took a slide down! Video- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I8w0uHaNF0

The Great Wall of China dates back to the 5th century B.C. and continued to be constructed throughout many Chinese Dynasties. In total it stretches for 8,851.8 km. Many people died while building the Wall and to honour them some of their bones were built into the foundation. An urban myth states that the Great Wall can be seen from space but sadly I found out that this is untrue 😦

During my stay there I said over and over how happy I was that I chose to teach in Korea. Beijing is a definite must-see city and the trip has definitely heightened my interest in visiting other cities in China but damn and I glad I don’t live there!

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International Bodypainting Festival

Every year Daegu hosts a body painting festival. For three days countries from all over the world spend about 8 hours painting their subjects before sending them off for the final competition at the end of the evening. Throughout the day you can observe artists as they work while enjoying the regular festival sort of things like face painting and drinking. It was neat to see the entire process rather than the finished product as some projects did not turn out as you expected. Angela even saw a body canvas try to use the public washroom with paint all over her body. I didn’t get a pic of that though, sorry.

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During the festival if you got bored of drinking or watching people paint other people’s bodies you could sit near the stage and watch the many performances including, ducks walking across the stage from left to right, monkey’s bowing and pooing simultaneously, girls dancing and boys rapping. All in all it was entertaining but my favourite performance was an unexpected kung-fu fighting-type group. They walked out in suits and just starting fighting. It was epic.

Right now I have a bad case of red eyes so if you read this send me positive healing energy! Also if you’re reading this….Thank you and I like you 🙂

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Daegu Summers are HOT HOT HOT

The summer here has been a scorcher and I’m glad it’s almost over. One great thing about summer in Daegu has been the constant stream of festivals and activities going on every weekend. So far I’ve been to a Mud Festival where you celebrate mud and it’s aesthetic value, a Fireworks Festival where I saw crazy fireworks, Suseong Water Festival where you beat the heat with water activities, Busan International Music Fest and this upcoming weekend there is a Body Painting Festival and the World Firefighter Games which I’ll be attending with my first visitor from back home! A closer look below…

Bureyong Mud Fest

Wikipedia says the nutrient saturated mud from Mud Fest is dug up at a nearby location and dumped in ‘Mud Experience Land’. No one knows that though because Mud Fest is just another excuse to go nuts. It’s mostly popular with foreign teachers around Korea but that brings in thousands of tourists and provide a nice little boost to their local economy.

A prison where you are punished by being hosed down with mud! There was also mud wrestling, obstacle courses, mud slide and mud pools.

 

My umbrella had no chance against the gusty wind and heavy rain!

My umbrella had no chance against the gusty wind and heavy rain!

 

This guy's friends buried him because he lost a bet...fair enough but with the rain he couldn't see or breathe very well! I gave him a couple of minutes rest until I got distracted myself!

Suseong-gu Water Festival

This festival happened to be right by my apartment which is a bit south of the city center. It was next to Suseong Lake which has a little amusement park with mini-putt and an airplane restaurant! I have never been inside the airplane but it looks very cool. The festivities included swan paddle boat races, a water gun zone and an ice walk which really hurt your feet! I have to admit I was laughing at the little kids who wimped out half way through the walk but when I did it I totally understood why. I only lasted for the first little bit before retiring to the sidelines 😦

It was so hot we decided to take a dip in the lovely waterfall fountain thingy.

Taking a pic from the sidelines of the ice walk!

What better way to cool off then to wait in line and stand infront of massive fans!

Water gun soldiers!


Water guns for public use 🙂

 

Little kiddies try to high jump. Very cute.

After the festivities we went back to my place, which never happens because I live quite far out, and we ordered pizza, which also never happens because I don’t know how to order in Korean! Oh and also at night the festival lit fireworks which I was able to see from my rooftop. It was pretty cool!

Busan International Music Festival

This festival was set right on a beautiful beach in the coastal city of Busan. The musical line-up composed of bands from Korean, Japan, Hong Kong and the States. None of which I actually knew…but still lots of fun!

Backdrop of the music fest!

The Festival from afar.

The firefighters made themselves useful by spraying the audience! It was very refreshing.

Best part of the night was getting fake tatoos!

Summer isn’t over yet! Muah!

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Pohang Fireworks Fesitival

This past weekend I went to an international fireworks festival in the city of Pohang. The backdrop of the fireworks was a steel factory so I was a bit skeptical but I forgot I was in Korea and in Korea they add LED lights the absolutely everything including steel factories making it cornier-looking but more pleasing to the eye!

They played some music in the background that synced with the fireworks. Someone told me that it takes months to choreograph a show like this one.

There were some cool shapes including hearts, smiley faces, words, sunglasses, spirals and more.

I loved the smiley faces 🙂

In the middle of the fireworks a Korean pop group, Kara, came out and did a performance which I was not expecting! I love Korean pop and I’ve come to love and accept all of these random occurrences in Korea too. There was also some very strange performances with men dressed in drag, little people playing drums and awful singing. The older Koreans were loving it! Have a look for yourself.

The dancer in this video kept flashing off his butt and nipples while he took off his multiple layers…I was nice enough to leave that out!

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The Games

Attending the world cup games have been so much fun. The energy is incredible with absolutely every person, old and young, cheering on for Korea (before they lost). All the kids wear cute t-shirts and faux tatoos to school while the rest of society wear Korean paraphernalia in a fashionable or business style. For the Korea vs. Nigeria match I went to a soccer stadium with a huge group to watch it amoung thousands on a big screen. The game didn’t begin until  3:30a.m. on a Wednesday but that didn’t stop anyone from cheering on hardcore. Except I did snap a photo of one guy passed out! Anyways here are some pics and stuff:

Singing the national anthem!

The end of the game (6:00a.m.) everyone couldn’t be happier because Korea is (was) still in the running. Sigh.

Passed out guy

There was no toilet paper in the washrooms and this is why!

I said I would put my friend Vivian on the blog...haha. Muah!

I’ve also checked out some other sporting events including a baseball game where Daegu played worse than the Toronto Blue Jays scoring 1 run in the 7th inning ultimately losing 9-1 or something like that. I’ve tried to block it out to be honest. I also went to a soccer game too.

Decked out in Samsung Lion gear (Baseball)

Mascots shooting god knows what into the stands

Cheerleaders

The one soccer game I went to it unfortunately rained pretty hard. The stadium was not covered so it was pretty empty but a few of us managed to sit under some shelter. We still had to wear ponchos as it was really wet! I admired the few fans who did not, I repeat, DID NOT stop cheering, chanting and jumping the entire game despite the rain. Needless to say I was pretty impressed!

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Scavenger Hunt

Every year Daegu holds a festival downtown called Dongseongno Festival. It’s the summer’s largest festival  to encourage foreigner-Korean relations.  From what I saw they had a talent show, beauty contest, full body painting, beer drinking contest and a scavenger hunt. I could never resist a good scavenger hunt so I got a couple of good friends and off we went. When we received our list of 100 to dos we were about to throw in the towel. I mean pose for a pic with a Korean policeman and then have him arrest you! Interrupting an innocent couple enjoying a day at the Nooribong (singing room) and joining them for a song, which we had to do twice because my lovely teammate deleted the first video!

Koreans are pretty conservative and I’m hesitant to ask for ridiculous favors but…we got into it. One team member went as far as piercing her nose. Here is some media evidence.

Started off easy enough- posing with a Korean soldier. The sad face was a bonus.

Find a couple with a matching couple set (populer here) and get them to do a "Dong Chim" which translates to sticking fingers up one's butt (also popular here).

Handing out free samples.

Posing with a sexy window display.

They tried.

I also have a few videos of my teammate Kylie and I break dancing. Breakin’ in da Streetz Mind you neither of us are breakers but that didn’t stop us. Another video of me Chugging a cup of hot ass Dukbokki (Red chili liquid).

In the end we came in 8th place and didn’t win a hotel room or a gift certificate but I’d still say we were the real winners because we improved our Korean relations…whatever!

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