Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green Update

The sunnier days have made my plants grow at a faster rate than ever before. My large succulent is sprouting all kinds of limbs and the base of the trunk is hardening even more. You can see in just a month's time that the upper limbs are multiplying rapidly and more leaves are appearing with each day.

The avocado below is maturing quickly and the leaves have finally unfolded. They double in size within a week and the stem has quadrupled in size within a fortnight's time.

Sinji-do Beach

This past weekend a group of us ten large went to the southern coast of the Korean peninsula to enjoy a beach weekend at Sinji-do. The land mass breaks up into a cluster of hundreds of islands in the south so it is simple to find adventure within a couple hours' travel. From Gwangju, you can take a 2 hour bus ride to Wando [W14,000] and then get on a shuttle bus to Sinji-do (Sin-jee-do Beach-ee) for W1,100.

There is a small town that hosts beach goers mostly through the summer but its nicer to get here earlier in the season before the organized hordes of Koreans arrive and take over the coast. It was clear that this beach gets packed as there was a public restroom every 100m down the entire boardwalk. You can camp here if you like but there were so many of us that we rented out two minbaks and spread out on the floor. They only cost W30,000 per night so its the best bet if you have a large group of people without tents.

We brought with us a slew of vegetables, weiners, fruit, and homemade dips to chow on. The minbaks provide mini ranges and refrigerators so its best to bring your own food because the coast towns don't have much but ramen and snacks in their bodegas.

It was cloudy at first but the sky cleared up and we got the best of the beach weather. We met a trio of Italians - Alissio, Fabio, and ???? - that work for a boat engine manufacturer in Mokpo and miss cheese as much as we do. Also, we witnessed a series of Korean families participating in over-organized beach games. This included relay races up and down the beach amongst 50-60 year old Korean men and women dressed in hiking gear. They also played a game in a circle where you hold one leg up in the air and attempt to knock others down with your remaining balance. Quite the show.

Of course we played some of our own games too. Matt devised the literary version of the popular Korean wrestling game, his rendition included a Venn Diagram that each player was required to stay within without being forced out by your opponent. You will get the gist from the pictures.

One of our friends also broke/sprained her ankle going up the stairs and since there were no hospitals open within a 50 mile radius we succumbed to our better resources. She was up and running again with an ankle support made of fishing net and twine. Later I fashioned a crutch from a pine limb and leftover twine.

This upcoming weekend we are saying goodbye to our friends Matt and Ashley as they finish up their year in Gwangju and head to Halong Bay in Vietnam. Matt will be working as a rock climbing guide and Ashley is transforming herself into a an avid adventurer...I mean she's already got the gear for it.

The Italians, Jess Lewis, and a bunch of our other friends will be descending on Gwangju to join in on the festvities...which include a group campfire at the secret pagoda up on our ridge, an international food and talent festival at Honnam University, a Korean body-building competition, final group bike rides along the stream, and a JoEun Villa rooftop yard sale.

One month left on the contract and every weekend is booked.

Sinji-do pictures

Friday, May 22, 2009


This is my first attempt at an HDR Image. The construction site you see in the foreground is a luxury apartment complex that they began putting up around the time I arrived in Korea. You can see that they have no problem putting a couple buildings up at a time, adding to the already-clustered valley of high-rise apartments. I took [then later altered] this picture from the 24th floor of an adjacent complex right across the street.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Miniature Korea

Here are some photos that I have been working on. I have been experimenting with tilt-shift effects and I think the results are rather enjoyable. Tilt-shift is another way to make it appear that you are taking photos of a small model. If you want to try for yourself, here is a tutorial on how to do it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This Kid's Name is Tobias

Alot of the kids that attend Avalon have never had an English name before so there has become the interesting ritual of "naming" our children. In my one elementary class most of the kids are first-time Hogwon students and have yet to be given an English name. There is a traditional name list and a creative name list that you can pass around to the kids and let them pick one. Some of the kids, like Tobias, don't even know where to start when picking an English name so I usually have to choose one for them. There tend to be some unusually named children at our school given the satirical attitude of the foreign teaching staff.

This is Bear. However, the other kids made fun of his name so I took the privilege of changing it to Noah. I think he will grow up to be a virtuous young man.

The kids pictured above are name Tom (green), Steel (back left), and Kyd. Some of the more peculiar names I've come across have been:

D (like the letter)

If any of you are planning to have kids anytime soon...gimme a call. I've got experience identifying children with a proper name.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Octopus Ocellatus

Since I am destitute of my own mother's home cooking here I have to cop meals off of my Korean friend's mothers. My friend and co-worker, Kihyun, offered to have her mother cook me some of her specialty octopus...I was quick to accept. A week later she showed up at my door with containers full of octopus ocellatus, rice, and kimchi. A meal here wouldn't be complete without a full spread.

Kihyun said she eats this dish with her family regularly.

The octopus is separated in half - tentacles from head - and cleaned. It's then mixed with an assortment of vegetables - mushrooms, carrots, onions, peppers - and cooked in sesame and a spicy red pepper sauce. It leaves the mouth tingling with delight.

Yes, I always take my meals without a shirt gives me a much more primordial experience of eating.
Pictured above is the full culinary ensamble. This photo wouldn't be complete without the unintentional yet aptly placed copy of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.