Hanging at the Fortress

The other weekend, before it got too cold, Katrina and I decided to take a bike ride down to Suwon Fortress (Hwaseong Fortress) and hang out. We were going to picnic but we just ended up getting a drink and some chips. We took a walk around a bit and I snapped a few photos - nothing special. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and isn't getting too caught up with Christmas around the corner. I sure do love these holidays and miss being home this time of year.

(One of the sentry posts)

(A sweet sunflower growing out of the wall)

(More foliage growing out of the wall. I do enjoy this time of year for colors.)

(Katrina hanging out with the sunflowers and an idea to give you how big the wall really is)

(Dragon Wagon - it runs from one side of the fortress to the other and can save you a lot of walking if you plan correctly)

(So, we were playing kick the rock and having a good time. I believe I bet Katrina she couldn't get it far enough to hit the people in front of us... well, she did. This is the reenactment photo of that moment.)

(This is Katrina's actual reaction moments after the incident)

(I think it was the matching outfits that gave her the power to kick it so hard. This is the actual couple. The guy turned around and looked after the tiny rock hit his shoe. I should have pointed at Katrina, but I didn't.)

(The main gate - if you look closely you'll be able to find Katrina)

(A side gate - to walk around the fortress it only costs 1,000 won or about a dollar)

(Katrina on the lookout)

(This is another view of the side gate and sentry post)

(This is just an interesting little house we passed on our walk)


A Double Dose of Staff Dinners

Going out to eat with the boss is quite common in Korea and it's not unheard of to drink shots of Soju until the boss says stop. Luckily, that's not the case at Avalon. We do occasionally have a staff dinner at the end of every semester to say goodbye to outgoing teachers and hello to new teachers. And, every once and while, as was the case a few weeks ago, we get one in the middle of the semester for a special occasion. This special occasion - one of our students got into Cheongshim Middle School.

For those of you who have yet to hear, Cheongshim Middle School is the Harvard of Middle Schools in Korea. Without going into too many details, he will live in a dormitory and his parents will pay roughly $20,000 - yes, that's not a mistake, twenty thousand dollars - starting in middle school. So, you are looking at close to $150,000 to graduate high school, not to mention the costs of extra academies his parents have already paid. However, he will have his choice of universities which ensures him a great job and a great life style. In Korea, nothing could be more important. Here are a few pics from two staff dinners:

(Kelly and Ashley - Kelly went to pursue a career in economics)

(Harry Harry Long ya'll. Harry is the newest teacher, coming in from England - which is easy to tell from his accent.)

(Myself and Katrina. I was sporting a little facial hair at the time. I tell Katrina all the time but I think it has gotten much thicker in Korea - woot woot! It's still not great though...)

(Justin and Calvin - Calvin will be leaving in two weeks time)

(Ellen and Katrina - Ellen is a super kind woman and fun to work with)

(Spenser, and to the left, Young and JK - chowing down on some Korean style galbi)

(Myself and Ellen - we were discussing John Adams)

(Kate and Chelice - my bosses. Kate is the elementary school secretary but secretary is not the right word to use and Chelice is the office manager for elementary school, perhaps all of Avalon. I get along with both of them just great which is why I've been here a year and a half. Chelice and I each spend extra time working with the Cheongshim students - Chelice two hours a week and myself one - after regular classes are finished. So, I know for her it was especially gratifying to have at least one student pass. I am and was super excited as well.)

(Katrina, Ashley, Lucy, and Justin)

(Katrina thrilled to death to be at a meat restaurant)

(Calvin - 'if you smell what the Rock is cookin' impersonation)

(Table shot - you can see the grill, or 3 of them if you look closely, where you actually cook your own meat)

(Rachel, Grace, and Clara. Rachel and Clara are two of the newer teachers. Grace, I believe, has been here just about as long as me.)

(Anna checking out the menu and another shot of the grill)

(A big smile on my face, celebrating Sebastian's success and enjoying my meaty goodness)

(Pap. I think my grandmother is better on a computer than this guy. He's 32 and just missed out on the technological revolutions of my time. He uses the hunt and peck method to type, same as my dad, and doesn't know how to copy and paste without using the mouse. Pap will also be leaving in about 2 weeks.)


Board Breaking and Bodyworlds Exhibit

A few weekends ago Katrina and I had heard from a few of our co-workers that the Bodyworlds Exhibit was worth going to. So, we made our way into Seoul, stopping off at Itaewon for lunch. In Itaewon, we just so happened upon a board breaking event. Well, it was more of a martial arts performance accompanied with some board breaking. So, we ended up watching it for at least a half hour. Then, it was off to the War Memorial in Sam Gak-ji to see the Body World Exhibit. You were not allowed to take photos but do a Google Image search (some images are graphic and remember, they are real people). They use real bodies and some special technique and it's as though they peel the skin right off the body. It was unbelievable, humbling, and fascinating at the same time.

(This guy used his partner to get some air and broke the board with ease)

(This woman went through a whole bunch of boards in rapid succession)

(Here's another woman breaking some more boards)

(Here was another part where a guy got some air. They had epic music playing the entire time which made it even more fun.)

(This guy ran, jumped off his buddy, and broke the board. Look, not only are those people holding that guy up, they are standing on chairs. It's easily 12 feet in the air. He did a back flip, broke the board, then landed.)

(This guy had a blindfold, or at least what appeared to be a blindfold, covering his eyes. Then, another assistant held a bell right behind an apple and would ring it every so often. It took him a few kicks but he was eventually able to break the bell.)

(More aerial board breaking. Again, getting ready to do a back flip.)

(This was epic. You see how the people form a nice, gradual incline. This guy ran, jumped up, ran on the people, and then broke the board.)

(Here's the video of the above shot, with the guy running on people's shoulders)

(Nice shot of the War Memorial. We went here for the Body World Exhibit. Again, I wasn't able to take pictures but do a Google Image Search of Body World - crazy.)

(Katrina and I close to the entrance)

(Katrina and Spenser headed up the steps.)


Makkoli (Korean Rice Wine) Festival

Spenser had been talking about a Makkoli Festival for quite some time. I never been to a beer tasting festival but imagine it would be quite similar. There were a lot of vendors with tents set up, each selling their own unique brand of makkoli, or Korean rice wine. There was pumpkin makkoli, apple makkoli, black rice makkoli, curry makkoli, red pepper makkoli, sweet potato makkoli, traditional makkoli, makkoli from the big chains, pomegranate makkoli, and just about every makkoli between.

For 2,000 won you get a small white makkoli cup and travel from vendor to vendor in search of a new favorite beverage. At the end of the nite, if you return your cup, you get your 2,000 won back. Now, there are hundreds of tents and with only a sip at each tent, you do the math. Of course, that wasn't the case - for some reason Koreans love to see foreigners drinking their rice wine; so, we got a little more than a sip at each tent. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun and I had a great time. Katrina even got to achieve one of her life long dreams, which is always a plus. We made some friends and had a lot of fun.

(The park where the makkoli festival was held was really beautiful. There was some water and the giant hill in the background used to be a trash dump.)

(If you look closely you can see a few of the tents)

(Katrina and I with our 'makkoli' cups)

(Spenser showing his off)

(One of Katrina's new friends. This guy was yelling about a zombie march some place in Seoul and I had to leave I was laughing so hard.)

(Great action photo)

(Not quite sure how we met these two girls but Katrina made another friend)

(I think this girl told me about 3 or 4 times she didn't have a boyfriend. Poor Spenser, I made my friend and Katrina made hers and he was kind of caught in the middle...)

(One of the vendors - I always felt a little bad trying their makkoli and then not buying any. I think between myself and Spenser we had around 15 bottles and cans after the night was over.)

(This guy was pretty cool. We stayed and talked to him for about 5 minutes. He worked at one of the bigger chains so he was just giving us 'service' makkoli. In other words, it was free.)

(I believe seeing this makkoli man sparked something in Katrina - look at how happy she is)

(Me helping Katrina fulfill one of her life long dreams - to be in a mascot suit)

(Hmm, I wonder who that could be...)

(Yep, it's Katrina having a great time)

(Harry, myself, and Justin having some fun at the end of the night)

(Harry, another new friend we made who had a sweet bike, Spenser, myself, and Katrina as the night was coming to a close)