Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Pictures from the trek up Mudeung Mountain can be seen here!

A Bonsai demo by Walter Pall can be seen here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lotus Hunt

The lotus is a symbol of purity but it also has many associations as a representation of death and rebirth in eastern iconography. Above is a picture taken of the lotus garden, located right next to Anapji Pond in Gyeongju. We visited here several weeks ago and found that the lotus had bloomed earlier in the summer and all that was left on the stem were the flower's pods.

These brown "pods" seen hanging downwards contain the lotus seed and will eventually fall off of the stem, returning the seeds to the mucky water from whence they came. After sinking into the mud, the seed will germinate underneath the water. A new sprout will emerge in the spring and the lifecycle of the lotus continues.

My friend, Matt Hayden Raue, and I perfected the "grab n' lean" technique that must be demonstrated properly in order to snag a few of these precious seeds. It happens like this: the Grabber (A) reaches out into the lotus patch as the Leaner (B) grasps his opposing forearm. In an attempt to attain the precious lotus seeds (C), there must be a perfect balance of weight between the Grabber and the Leaner so as to prevent falling into the muddy shallows (D). The perfected equation, where m=mass, should look something like this: mA mB=C. The failure to complete this equation properly will yield results that look something like this (mA>mB=D).

Here are some photos of the pods and seeds we managed to collect:

If you want to see more pictures of a delicate lotus flower, you should click here.

(THE MORE YOU KNOW - the lotus ranks second in the running as the oldest successful human-assisted seed germination - 1300 year old seeds. First place goes to the 2,000 year old Judean Date Palm)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gwangju City is Bike Friendly!

After three failed visits to the local bike shop, we finally managed to get two sweet new rides! We tried to save some money by searching for used bikes but came up with nothing after a few pathetic attempts to wager in hand gestures and loudly-spoken Korean. We ended up caving and buying new bicycles. After only a week of owning these guys, they have already proven their worth. The ride to school only takes 2 minutes, the handy-dandy basket makes transporting groceries (vegetables) a cinch, and meeting up with our cross-town cronies has never been more convenient. The bikes here are all made in China and have cheap plastic brakes, erratic shifters, and an astonishing number of EXTREME decals (I did some aesthetic work and took mine off). If you want something other than a mountain bike you either have to get an old man bike or a mini.

We are so cool.

If you look at the map below, the red line indicates the Gwangju Stream (the red dot is our apartment complex). On the banks of the stream are pathways that are used for walking, biking, and exercise. The path runs the entire length of the city and if you follow it far enough you will start entering the countryside. Along the stream are many man-made cascades, places to sit and relax, and under-the-bridge-old-man-hangouts. It is common to see these guys playing and betting on card games, fishing, or having a smoke. Or if you are lucky enough, like today, one of them will challenge you to a strenuous bike race and then continue to make guttural motorcycle noises at you the entire way. He won.

The people in Gwangju are very friendly and have no problem taking pictures of foreigners with their cell phone cameras. This guy asked if he could take a picture of Caitlin and I on his phone. He is probably texting that photo to all of his homies and LOLing about it right now :) I made him get a photo with Caitlin as retribution. He has been to Denver once and saw the Grand Canyon.

This particular spot alongside the stream was a field of sunflowers. The bees were busy pollinating, a hungover preying mantis was having trouble navigating his leaf, and Caitlin got a bug stuck in between her teeth. We continued on this path to SangMu, the business district of GWangju City. Our friends Leah and Stuart live there and it is also were you will find Geumho world - a multi-level electronics and home goods store. I picked up a pair of clippers and was finally able to shave my scruff for the first time. Also, me and the guys can now have our monthly wine-tasting, cookie-baking, and head-shaving parties. Guys only. Guys.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A simple video with pleasant illustration; worth a watch.
This video was created in celebration of the declaration's 60th anniversary.


Before you get a bank account, before getting paid or even buying food - any cozy home must be fitted with its first plants. Walking the streets of Gwangju you will see just as many plant stores as we have Wawas back home. I have spotted fig trees, bonsai, pitcher plants, and my longtime favorites - succulents! There is a lady by my school who sells these little guys for "chun won" (1 Korean Won - the paper money here is produced in denominations of 1000, 5000, and 10000).
Here are the plants I have picked up so far, I am open to name/nickname suggestions for each.

Living rocks! The first time I was given one of these, I managed to kill it within two weeks. I am giving it a second try - this time I hope to nurture it towards a healthy bloom. These plants are aptly named "living rocks" for their surface patterns generally resemble that of their surrounding rocky landscape. As they grow, a new bud will slowly emerge from the center, causing the current body of the plant to split off and die. They are members of the Lithops genus, a family of plants native to the arid climate of Souther Africa.

The lady I bought these from also gave me a pocket-full of clementines with my purchase. Apparently, gift-giving is customary in Korean culture. It is not uncommon to walk into your local Bodega and walk out with a free treat.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Apartment 303

As is the case anywhere else, time moves fast in South Korea. It has already been one month today since arriving in Gwangju (Kwangju) and it seems like the next 8 will fly by. I can say that it takes the full first month to feel like you have any sense of place in the Korean culture. Since I am not going to recap an entire month of "blogging," here is a run down of some of the things I have learned since being here.

1. cab drivers watch television while driving
2. the bathroom is your shower, there are no sliding glass doors or curtains dividing the two
3. take your shoes off before entering a room
4. traffic lights are optional
5. October 9th is Korea Day, celebrating the birth of the Hangeul language
6. don't drink the water
7. having hot water means pushing a button and waiting 5 minutes for it to heat up
8. the 7/11 has soft pretzels - however, it is simply a sweet dough with a creme filling in the shape of a pretzel
9. toilet paper goes in the trash bin
10. Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise

Here are some pictures of my bare apartment so far. It kind of looks like Drew's place in NYC, except here you don't actually need any chairs. (11. sit on the floor)

Things you won't find here:

1. cheese
2. deli sandwiches
3. soft pretzels
4. granola bars
5. good music
6. cilantro
7. good beer

That being said, here is my address. My mailbox will be accepting any of these items from now until forever.

Apt. 303 Jo Eun Villa
1086-1 JuWol Dong, Nam Gu
Gwangju City, South Korea 503060

I also recommend that everyone download Skype and create an account. (my username is justinmrazik - look me up. now!) This way, Ill be able to see if you are wearing any clothes or not when we talk about the weather. It is much easier to get in touch this way rather than figuring out phone cards, email is good too justinmrazik@gmail.com.

Until then, happy ventures. Check back often. Coming soon...posts about Honda pocket bikes, my snazzy new bike, a trip to Gyeonngju, and what's for lunch.