Sunday, October 26, 2008

A day in the big city

Everyone needs a day out in the city every once and a while and boy did i have an awesome day in the city on saturday. Jeju-si isn't the biggest city about 300 000 i think, but compared to seogwipo it seems huge. Our day began with the good luck of a ride to jeju-si thanks to Chantale who was off to play ultimate with Caleb. So Graeme, Caitriona and i piled into her car and we set off over the volcano to experience the wonders of jeju-si. The ride over halla in a car is far superior to the bus as you can see everything much better and it was a clear day, so we could see all the details of the peak. It would have been a beautiful day to climb, as was obvious from the jam packed parking lot at the entrance of one of the paths.

When we finally reached jeju-si we ventured into tom n toms coffee to drink tea and eat delicious home made pretzels stuffed with delicious ingredients like apple cinnamon and ham, cheese and mustard. After waiting for Katiria for over an hour we decided to go outside and wait near the statue outside city hall where we met a most inebriated fellow with lips covered in crumbs and a bag full of empty makkoli (rice wine) bottles. He of course was immediately attracted to the opportunity to practice his english and harass the weiguks (foreigners). This consisted of saying hello, pointing at mine and caitriona's crouches (well maybe our stomaches but i doubt it) and attempting to grab onto graeme's hands. He returned three times until finally Katiria appeared and we hopped into a cab and went to the underground.

Now the underground is an endless maze of small little shops underneath the streets on jeju-si. It is a shoppers dream, though not that cheap. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of clothing, make-up, sport, toy and household stores. The fashions are amazing, Koreans are definitely a stylish bunch. Though they are very very tiny and only about a 1/4 of the stuff fits me. After almost four hours in the underground, with one short break for lunch above the surface, I made it out with two pairs of jeans (my first pairs of skinny legged jeans since i was a kid), two sweater dresses (one purple and one black), one pair of awesome white crocheted leg warmers, some fake eyelashes and glue and one pair of wicked white men's hightops (which i have since painted). All in all it was quite successful i think and not to ridiculously expensive, probably $150.

After our escapades underground Caitriona went to salsa class while graeme and i wondered the bar filled streets around city hall with a bottle of whiskey and some oj and coke. I must say i was completely enthralled with watching the young people go about there lives, as seogwipo is sadly lacking in people between the ages of 18-30 who are not married with children and careers. After our aimless drinking we went to catch the end of salsa class and i got to dance with two korean salsa dancer and do the coolest line dance i have ever been in. koreans make up great line dances.

When salsa started to get a little much we wondered into Led zepellin to have a drink and find out where the Dome was. Once we had directions we were off to experience one of the most ridiculous clubs i have ever entered. It is friggin huge and charges 50 000 won ($50) per table. Which was only like $13 per person for a fruit platter and beer. As we sat munching on fruit, listening to really bad korean pop music played by a dj at an elevating golden eagle dj booth. We were very happy when he finally disappeared into the ceiling. To our suprise the walls began to open and a full stage lowered from the ceiling to reveal a 7 or 8 piece korean band. As i stood in awe taking pictures i was swept on to the dance floor by a group of korean uni students who proceeded to teach me some of the most ridiculous dance moves i have ver seen a group of twenty something men perform. I had a great time dancing with them, especially when the hip hop group came out and actually started playing some decent music. The last group was a group of big bang wanna-be's (korean version of the backstreet boys) we decided it was time to go home and after an hour cab ride we found ourselves back in seogwipo at about 4am. Oh i love a day in the city.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Getting into Korean Culture

So it has finally happened. I was beginning to wonder if it ever was but alas all good things must come to an end. (just teasing). I finally got the opportunity to spend some time with Koreans doing korean things outside of school. It was really quite marvelous. I guess the first incident was about two weeks ago when one of the gr 6 teachers went away for a week long course and the gym teacher replaced her. The other gr 6 teachers were so excited, that they decided to go out and celebrate. Now she isn't the worst woman, but compared to the other gr6 teachers she is much older, much more strict and not really into partying i would imagine. Luckily for me, I was invited.

We began at 3pm by going to a presentation for teachers at the local cultural center, which was most entertaining. We saw students playing music, singing and even rapping and one of our very own teachers performed a few dances with his dance sport team (competition ballroom dancing). After that we recieved soybean cooking oil just for being such great teachers and then we took off to find somewhere to eat. After much debate we went to a lovely japanese restaurant which was an interesting mix of japanese food and korean side dishes. It was a insane amount of food and i am amazed we managed to finish off 3/4 of it, along with 6 or 7 bottles of soju (korean alcohol) and 5 or 6 litre bottles of beer. Slowly my co-teachers began to show signs of "alcoholic english speaking" as they refer to it and even the 6-2 teacher talked to me with more than one word answers. This lead us to deciding to find a new place to go and drink and we ended up at kwanghee's tea house which is a place i adore and was so pleased to find myself there. I am not sure how many drinks we consumed there, but i didn't notice my main co-teacher leave to go home and by the time i made it home it was 11pm. All in all it was an awesome experience. I got to laugh and visit with my co-teachers. Got to see how much Koreans can drink and boy can they drink and it made me feel really apart of the team.

My second major incident occured this weekend after much planning by Caitriona and i, we found ourselves at Yakchunsa temple to stay for the night. This temple is exquisite. It has the largest Buddha hall in the Orient and had three other smaller halls with different Buddhas in them. We arrived at around 5pm, greeted by Dokwan a very interesting character. He was originally an investment bank manager in Seoul with a wife and two daughters, but after his divorce he decided to become a monk. With his wife and kids settled in North vancouver, he has now been a monk for two years. As he had spent time in canada,as well,he spoke excellent english and we spent the weekend with him as our host serving us tea and talking to us about buddhism, canada, finance and many other topics. We got to participate in the three ceremonies they hold each day, at 4:30am, 10:30am and 6:30pm. The ceremonies consisted of a number of different mantras and prayers with the customary genuflection to Buddha and completed with silent meditation. After each ceremony we would eat lunch made from the rice donated to Buddha during the time since the last ceremony. The food was delicious and 100% vegetarian which i can not tell you how happy that made me. I was actually quite suprised to eat so much, thinking we would only eat one meal a day.

The whole experience was so peaceful and the 4 am wake up was actually quite pleasant. It was the perfect weekend with gorgeous weather and i am so happy to have some new friends who love to share about their culture. All are welcome and invited to come and have a tea ceremony says Do-Kwan.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And The Seogi Pirates were formed

It was a beautiful day and after a pleasant ride threw the ambling side streets of jeju-do, four foreigners find themselves at the ocean. Filled with life, teaming with fish, flowing back and forth. The four climb off their bikes and sun themselves on the concrete peer. As the sun warms there skin and they wonder in thought, an idea beings to grow in their helmeted heads. What could we do, where could we go if we were to join together. And thus the Seogi Porates were born. On their trusted, though perhaps slightly decrepid, scooters and motorcycles they will wonder this island striking fear into those who get in their way and lust into the hearts of those who are crazy enough to romanticize about a band of bike pirates.

This formation has guided me toward finding a name for my beautiful pink scooter, who will from this day forth be known as ISIS (after the egyptian goddess). Isis was seen as a great mother and wife, patron of nature and magic; friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, the downtrodden, listener of prayers, and as the goddess of simplicity, from whom all beginnings arose. I chose this name as Isis will be my vessel for venturing out into nature, performing magical rites and, of course, helping those sinners, slaves and artisans out there.

As for my own pirate name it shall be "lysistrata (which means liberation army in latin) of the low". For my task shall be to befriend and liberate the lowly of the world. Through nature and the magic it gives me i will help break the shackles that bind people to their oppressors and prevent them from being free.

I promise to uphold this noble mission and serve my fellow pirates. All ye who stand in our way will perish by our hands.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sacred Spaces

You know those little places where one goes to find refuge from the drown and monotiny or the madness and confusion of everyday life. Well i have found two of mine. The first is a lovely little indian restaurant called Bagdad Cafe (after the movie). I believe i may have already spoken about it but it deserves more attention. It is owned by a lovely Korean woman by the name of Chu Young who speaks great english and has a very warm and inviting nature and a nepalese man whose name i do not know, but he is very good looking and says namaste in the most sincere and natural way as you enter this little sanctuary. The restaurant itself is set up like any lovely indian restaurant with warm colour and cushions, candles and incense. The food and drink are prepared by three indian men, who always greet with a smile. My favourite thing to eat is the Aloo Gobi with garlic naan and chai. It is all made to perfection with the right amount of spice and garlic. I find myself going there once a week and lounging about for hours wipping my chai and reading or writing in my journal. No one bothers me or stares at me. I am free to wonder of into my own little world and reconnect with the inner consciousness.

My second little haven is at a little pension near the sea which is only a 10 min scooter drive from my house. It is called Caffe Mokambo and is managed by a funky chick by the name of jenny. She has two staff, Johnny and New girl who both have an air of welcoming funkiness about them. The cafe is in a beautiful building with wood accents and cozy velvet couches. There is an amazing balcony that looks out on lush vegetation that meets the sea and makes you feel like you are out in the bush while still in a comfortable chair. The food is italian and quite authentically so (it actually has pepper and garlic and is not sweetened like most other versions of western food here). Even the cheesecake is real made with real creamcheese and not some strange mix of cake dough and gelatinous cheese stuff. I can easily find myself whiling away the hours eating delicious food, reading, writing and doing yoga on the beautiful balcony.

I must admit this is starting to sound like a review for a magazine. But if it was i would definitely give these amazing restaurants top marks. The real love i have for these sanctuaries ishe way they allow me to relax and forget about whatever maybe worrying me. I can sit there for hours and no one says a word, they allow me to enjoy and take in a little peace.