Monday, July 27, 2009

Day One...

Well, I made it here. I really wish i had more stories to tell but most of the museums are closed on Mondays. I'm staying in a hostel in Tokyo. I had to revise my original plans as the weather is going to be a combination of cloudy and rainy for the next week. While that's annoying walk around it, it's downright dangerous to climb...and that means stupid to climb it. i can always climb a mountain another day...but getting stuck in a white out...I'll pass. So instead I'm jamming more cultural stuff...starting first thing in the morning...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The mud and the moon

So I learned or 2 regarding the supposed "health effects" of the mud festival. Mud can be bad for you.

First, over 200 people (of the thousands that attended) mudfest, came away with rashes. Not exactly something you want to advertise (and no, I was not one of them)

Second, mud is IMPOSSIBLE to get out of your ears. I've gone thru dozens of Q-Tips (wood ones...that's all they seem to have over here.) and I'm pretty sure I'm be smuggling it to Japan next week...

Third, I finally understand the expression, "get the mud out of your ears"

So today was the longest eclipse of the 20th century. Did you miss it...probably, it completely missed North America. As it was partially cloudy today, I was was to see it both directly and thru some clouds.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


So this past weekend was mudfest. I think it is supposed to celebrate the health qualities of the mud...or something like that, unfortunately, I don't think I'm not sure what point was....but it was a festival...and there was a lot lot of mud eventually...

So I signed up as many foreigners do in Korea...thru some random agency I looked up on the Internet. The idea was that I would pay a bit more...but that I wouldn't have to worry getting down there, lodging, or getting back.

Unfortunately when I initially signed up for mudfest, it was during my time of transition. Where I knew I was leaving my previous job, but hadn't quite nailed down the new job yet. So I wasn't exactly picky about which subway stop I was picked up at. I honestly didn't think it would make much of a difference...a bus ride is a bus ride...right? That's like saying a boat ride is just a 3 hour tour...a 3 hour tour...

So, I just happened to pick the pick up location that was the farthest one from me. But that wasn't really a the subway system in Seoul is amazing. The problem is that this bus left last...and therefore hit traffic. How bad you may ask? There were men in the middle of the highway selling waffles. The picture is that of an off ramp...there were men in the middle of the biggest highway in Korea...selling waffles. When's the last time you saw a dozen hot dog vendors strolling between cars on I-90?

What should have been a 2-3 hour drive lasted well over 5 hours. It was so long that by the time we arrived.. they were out of mud. Oh...and everyone was wet...not from the mud...but from the rain.

I really didn't care...I was off that bus. I threw my things in a rented locker...and went for a brief swim in the ocean. Got bored, and went and found my room.

The downside of not planning your own trip, is not booking your own room. I expected a few extra people, but I didn't expect to cram 8 people on the floor. We figured out how to fit 6 comfortably....but we couldn't figure out where we were going to put the Aussies...but they weren't we kind of put the decision off.

I strolled around...ate some delicious Indian food, watched the fireworks (a professional show that made of for the 4th of July), and watched a really bad hip hop concert. I don't mean to say I didn't enjoying watching the concert...just the guys doing the concert were really bad. The entertainment came from the audience. You see...they had 500 plus drunk foreigners...and only 3 security guards. While the guard could handle the 2 entrances to the stage...they couldn't do that AND patrol under the stage.

So what would happen is someone would decoy the security guard...and someone else would go onstage and dance with one of the back up dancers....only to be escorted off

Or streak...

Or just annoy the guards...

Once that was over...I headed to bed....or well what I called bed. You see...Koreans have a slightly different idea of beds than us Americans. They like to sleep on the floor on pads. So the hotel room was just a plain room with pads, blankets and pillows in the closet. Again...we managed to cram 6 of us on the floor...but theoretically had 2 more roommates that were nowhere to be found.

I woke up the next morning...with 6 people crammed into the room...only to discover the Aussies had miraculously showed up during the middle of the night. Not wanting to disturb anyone they politely just curled up on the floor in the hallway and in the closet...without blankets, pillows or pads...WHAT NICE GUYS.

After, eating some more Indian food for breakfast. I made it back to the beach only to discover that mudfest was officially back in business...they had mud again. Only today was a downpour and windy. Most everyone stayed inside to avoid the bad weather. I can't say I really cared. I mean...did you intend to stay a mud festival?

I muddied up like Arnold Swartzenager gearing up to fight Predator. Then ran into the mud wrestling pit. I held my own against a couple of guys...but really...but got tossed a few times...did my share of tossing...but decided it wasn't my thing when I took a guy to the ground...only to have a pair of guys topple onto us....and another set of guys topple onto the pile of us...

I washed off in the raging ocean...did I mention the wind was up? (there was a Korean life guard that made blow horn noises at you if you got any deeper that 2 feet of water...)

The bus ride back was uneventfully slow. We took 5 hours to get back...but not because of traffic this time...our driver just got lost... LOST ...all he had to do was follow the highway and we would have been fine! It's like getting lost going from Yakima to Seattle....just turn onto I 90 and follow the really isn't that hard.

He tried to placate the passengers with movie out of his personal collection....but it took a while to find on in English...

Anyhow...I'm not sure if I can vouch for the health properties of mud...but I can vouch for the negative consequences of getting mud in your ears. DON'T I'm still trying to get it out with these crazy wooden Q-tips!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I did a 5 K!!!

This was America's birthday and I wanted to get out and celebrate America. For the record...the equivalent day in Korea is March First, 1910. That is the day Korea began its resistant to the Japanese invasion. They finally succeeded on August 15th 1945 (what we call VJ Day) Kind of makes our own struggle for Independence from Brittan seem kind of short (8 years as opposed to 35...with some brutal repression that still gets the Koreans riled up_

First stop: Western Seoul

My first party was on the opposite side of the city. No problem...2 hours and less than $2 later I was on the other side of Seoul. It was a pretty standard American themed BB. There were burgers, chicken and hot dogs on the BBQ....a little bit of dancing and a little bit of fireworks. Fireworks, that are legal to purchase year round. Kind of takes the fun out of it...really. If I could buy them year round, I wouldn't burn holes in perfectly good clothing once a year.

Anyhow...after a couple of hour of cooking, chatting, and hanging out. The rest of the party decided to go to a place called Tigerworld. It sound amusement park with a indoor skiing. I might have to save that for another day as I was off to a second party.

The second party was a bit closer to home. My friend was leaving Korea to pursue a Masters back in America. I'll miss him. A group of his friends met at a restaurant, ate our fill and wished him well back in America.

Around 11:30, I decided it was the point of no return. You see, I was about a 45-60 minute subway ride home (I live WAY out in the outskirts of the city) But as long as I could catch my train before midnight...I should be fine. I asked one of the guys if he thought I could make it in time. He assured me that I could...and I assumed he knew what he was talking about.

However, he didn't take into consideration the walking time from the restaurant to the subway station. Ahhh...without really thinking I caught the train to a big subway hub hoping to catch a taxi home.

That was my big mistake...

You see, between the BBQ and the going away party...I'd gone thru the rest of the case I had on me. Oh subway pass has money on does my bank account...but those taxi drivers want cash.

That's easy enough to arrange...I simply had to go to the ATM and make a withdrawal, right?

Newflash: Korean ATMs are in Korean.

While Bank ATMs provide an English option. All back ATMs are locked up after 11:30. By this time it was after midnight.

The local 7-11 (yes there are probably more 7-11s in Korean than Starbucks...they LOVE their connivance stores here) had an ATM...but it didn't have an English option....nor was the interface intuitive enough to operate without speaking the language...

So here I am. I'm broke, in the middle of Seoul and have no way of immediately getting home.

So I started walking. (gee...this sounds familiar...)

I didn't walk home....rather I walked to the Olympic Park that is near where I was. It's a beautiful park, but is unfortunately closed after dusk. Well, there isn't much to see in a park after midnight anyhow...I was just killing time.

I stopped periodically and read my travel guide to Japan. I stopped and played the golf game on my cellphone.

I just took my time...the subway didn't start up until 5:00.

Even at my leisurely pace, I eventually circled the entire park.

Upon reaching my starting point, I looked down. There were numbers painted into the sidewalk "5000 M" Wow...I'd just done a 5 K in 4 hours! hmmm...I hope my time is better next time!!!

Ohh...and the picture this week is a Korean Bow and Arrow.