Saturday, February 28, 2009

Goodbye Korea!

These were Stephen's students for the month of February: Bok Hwan, Jin Sung, Isaac and Catherine.

Somebody used to get his favorite Froot Loops cereal for a while, but for the last month showed great restraint. Stephen, looking neglected.

This picture's a little vanilla, but that's the point. Korea is very organized, even color-coordinated (black, gray, purple and pink are favorite colors).

Us with Sun and Jeong Yi looking for a restaurant. This is a typical street near a big subway station, full of restaurants, singing rooms (karaoke), ice cream shops and tea houses.

Our delicious dinner.

After dinner Stephen declared that he wanted to eat Cold Stone ice cream because he'll soon be in India and Cold Stoneless. Jeong Yi and Adrienne, who are very similar in temperament, showed hesitation, but Sun was game. After eating delicious mint ice cream, Sun said that she had a surprise for Stephen, and we went across the street to a Baskin Robbins and ate even more ice cream! Love the green tea ice cream.

At the ice cream shop on Valentine's Day. The Korean Valentine's Day is split into two days. In February the girls buy their boyfriends chocolate. Men reciprocate in March. Stephen made sure to remind Adrienne of this many times. Luckily, Jeong Yi and Sun gave Stephen chocolate presents too.

After desserts, we went for a stroll along the Cheongyechun, a river that cuts through Seoul. We caught a neat light and sound show. In this picture, laser birds are flying through the river mist.

All of us.


In Korea, China and Japan, and probably elsewhere in Asia, there are great little picture booths that friends or paramours use. The pics come out as mini stickers. The quality of this picture isn't great because it's a picture of a picture, but you can still see Mary Poppins, the Wicked Witch, Mama Smurf and the Circus Tranny.

There are always riot police at the ready, just in case there's a protest against the importation of American beef (laced with mad cow, no doubt), or against the treatment of Buddhists at the hands of a partisan Protestant government.

Stephen at a Baroque art exhibit.

Prince Ivan Baryatinsky, by Louise Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun, 1802. Our favorite painting from that exhibit.

We often visited a nearby monastery for yoga and meditation.

Adrienne sending home a box of stuff. Goodbye Korea! In fact, we wrote this blog from Hardiwar, India.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Country Life and Techno-Mart

For the past month or so, Stephen and Adrienne have been spending weekdays living at a rural English school and weekends in Seoul. This is Adrienne standing in front of a country cemetery on a misty evening, only a few steps from our front door at the school.

There are many tied-up dogs along the road that goes to the school. They are "muts," half-breeds, donkay in Korea, and they are used either as barking machines or summetime treats. In this picture, Stephen is heroically freeing a pup from his servitude.

Too cute to eat, too small to protect us -- let's tie him up anyway.

This little guy broke off his leash and was running around helter-skelter. We returned him to his owner, who promptly tied him up again.

After both of our cameras sustained some damage - Stephen's had a skiing accident and Adrienne's had a bad experience inside a backpack in Pusan - Stephen finally caved in and got a new one. Lots of neat features to play with plus a really long user's manual entirely in Korean. This is our Techno-Mart camera salesman, post-sale. It was an arduous bargaining session and he's just relieved that we actually bought something. V is for Victorious Sale! Techno-Mart is a 15-floor mega-technology store - I've never seen anything like it in the US.

Inside a multiplex on one of the upper floors of Techno-Mart. This is one of the first pictures with the new camera.

And while you're waiting to see a movie, you can step over and have your tarot cards read.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Us Standing in Front of Stuff + Foodstuffs

This weekend we went to a Joan Miro exhibit in Seoul. Outside the gallery was a huge cow made from white plastic pine needles and christmas tree lights. Usually in Korea a big cartoon cow indicates a steakhouse; this was a happy exception. (Update: one of our Korean friends has informed us of the very obvious fact that the above animal is actually an ox, as in Year of the Ox, which began a couple of weeks ago. We should have caught on to that one!)

Miro lived from 1893 to 1983. This exhibit contained lithographs from the 1960s and 70s.

This lithograph, called "The Brahmin," is Stephen's favorite work from the exhibit. The best part is the sacred thread.

"The Sun, the Moon and Five Peaks" is a Joseon Dynasty painting. It was usually displayed on a partition behind the king's throne. It represents the king's dignity, and was made in the hopes that the king would rule eternally, like nature. The painting has become iconic of Korea, and can be seen all over.

Bodhidharma, a 5th century South Indian, is thought to have transmitted Buddhism from India to China. In Korea, Bodhidharma is a very popular icon, and can be seen in temples, on calendars and on 99.9% pure gold cards meant to function as bookmarks. He is usually sullen-faced and wide-eyed, and there are many legends spanning many countries about his life.

Adrienne posing with a set of paintings of Bodhidharma at a Zen center in Seoul.

Adrienne doing her best Bodhidharma pose.

A Buddhist bas-relief from a Seoul temple - but we have no idea what it is of.

We went out to a Japanese restaurant and had a strange but delicious dish consisting of lettuce, dried fish, pickles and peanut butter.

It is customary to give gifts during the Lunar New Year. They can include boxed sets of soap, toothpaste, tuna fish cans - even Spam and cooking oil.