Friday, December 28, 2007

X-Mas Day

We spent the better part of X-Mas walking around Ulsan. We started the day out by stopping at Lim & Bok's for a bite to eat. I've taken to the Bi Bum Bop and Sarah's digs on the pork cutlet. This little restaurant is always an experience. This couple, who are somewhere in their upper 60's, seem to really enjoy us stopping in. They get numerous laughs out of our attempts to pronounce Korean and the looks on our faces as we dabble in new tastes and flavors. Overall, the food here is good and becoming a bit a a regular spot for us.

After eating we caught the 1402 into downtown Ulsan. This was our first time hopping on this particular bus and it took us through several new neighborhoods. Initally, it turned in the wrong direction and we just looked at each other-oh we go. But this bus ended up shaving about 20 minutes off our travel time, getting us into downtown in about 40 minutes. Total fare for the trip was 1100 won or a little over $1.25. The buses are a cheap and reliable way to get from "a to b" here, as long as you understand where "b" is and how to get back to "a".

So we arrive in downtown and found a bus stop that lists the 807 bus on its sign. This is what we were hoping to find. Success...or so we thought. We watched the 1402 drive off and the 422 pass by, then 102, the 1401, and so on. After about 30 minutes we see the 807 across the street stop and then hit the gas again. Humm. It was headed away from where we wanted to go. We thought it might spin around and swing back to get us. No luck. So we decided to make a go of it on foot. I didn't want to take a cab, much to Sarah's shagrin. So we took off and weaved our way through city streets, covering what probably equated to about two miles.

As we got further and further away from the city center things began to change a bit. The luxury hotels and department stores faded into the back drop of the skyline and another layer of Korea began to unfold. Streets seemed to narrow and buildings shrink. The amount of debris collected between buildings rose and the number of delapidated structures, sheet metal roofs, and bold aromas increased. I began to gain a sense of exiting all things remotely familar and as though I was walking back in time about 40 years. For some reason, I live for moments like this. When you have no idea what you might see and everything suddenly isn't as I've always know it to be. Iget a sense of amazement at the ways in which other people go about living and how there are these cultural pockets that are trapped in time.

Sarah was a real sport. She wasn't feeling it today...she simply wanted to see the beauty of the bamboo forest and get lost in something just a bit more pleasing to the senses. As we approached a massive concrete wall that marked the end of the road, I spotted a stair case. We crossed the highway and went down the other side to the river. This was nicer. We walked for a while until coming to a bridge which took us over the river and then weaved us through a few more streets...until finding the greenway. This took us directly toward the Simnidaebat Bamboo Forest...and finally a bit of respite from from urbanism.

On the way into the forest I saw a huge congregation of crows. A bit of a Hitchcock scene.
And finally the the Bamboo Forest...

The forest was planted to help mitigate some of the flooding that takes place in the summers and provide the people of Ulsan a retreat from the noise and congestion of the city.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Steel Caged Match-Kid Style

Outside some restaurants you often find trampolines.

The kids go hay-wire, jumping and wrestling in them.

It's like a steel cage match battle royal lasting for hours.

A Traditional Burial Site

A new city sprouts up before our eyes.

I-Park is a brand new development visible from our balcony.

This complex is completely sold out and nearing completion.

Bye-Bye Mountian! Our place is over on the left of the photo.

The Local Hiking Trail

A reforestation project.

Cow pies.

Stoic gaze.

Korean Fitness Centers

The outdoor gym...interesting. We gave it a shot and enjoy it.

This was a very Flintstones moment for me. But it did the trick.

Hula-Hoop anyone???

Downtown Ulsan

A good land mark for orientation downtown.

The downtown cinema. Lots of X-mas oraments too.

Standard downtown architecture.

Waiting for the bus.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Notice the lack of walk ways on the scaffolding. These guys were over 100 feet off the ground. Koreans are pretty hardcore, but this was nutz.

House Warming Party

We had a little house warming party with my boss, co-workers, and Jared. We had a nice night talking about all things from Korea's rapid progress since gaining democracy some 20 odd years ago, to teaching in SK, and Korean's love of hiking. We broke out some photos of home and everyone was very interested. They couldn't believe the mountains of Colorado and the desert landscapes of the southwest. The lady in front of the green chair, Melanie, well, her husband summitted Everest and is something of a celebrity around town.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The pot of gold at the end of the road. I didn't know what was down this road when I started walking. And to my surprise, I stumbled across the first Buddist temple I had the chance to visit. There were several bells chimming as the wind blew and a nip of incense whafting in the air.

A walk just down the road from our place.

These harvested fields continued for a while and were what I'd hoped to see. A very classic looking landscape for this part of the world.

A local resident's front door to the right.

Anyone for a beer and a "Wing Wing"? Then a drive in a car we could flip with three or four guys. I think it runs on AA batteries.

The local grocery store. Shopping here has been something of a chore. We've done a bit of trial and error experimenting with what things might actually and are slowly finding some things that are pretty good. Thankfully, there is a decent selection of imported foods; pasta, cereal, olives, cheese, and so forth.

A Short Stroll

This place is huge. This is considered the boonies. Go figure.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sunday afternoon

Spent a late night out with some folks from Canada, Josh and Jackie, along with their friend, Moon. We ate at a tradional Korean BBQ joint for over an hour and then went back to Moons' for drinks. Josh, from Toronto, had a birthday, so we ate a bite of cake with chop sticks and discussed numerous topics. One in particular focused on the hybrid combinations that have formed between the Chinese, Korean, and sometimes Japanese languages. I thought Spanish and German were challenging, Forget about it! I have been picking up a bit and speaking another language for the first time feels like trying on a whole new skin. Quite fun really. The inflections are suttle in their pronunciation. And because Koreans, at least in Ulsan, are so homogenous as a culture, feel that exact and proper pronunication of their language is essential. We were told we will run into folks who will not cut us a break for slightly off pronuncation, but to just push through it and embrace as much as possible. We'll see!

After dinner we hit a grocery store and Sarah found an "I Love NY" hostess sort of dessert. Just another example of the popularity of all things American here.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Greetings from Cheongok Dong, Ulsan, South Korea

We started driving around 2am from Cody, WY to Billings, MT, hopped a plane to Minnepolis, then we were off. Our course took us not over the Pacific Ocean, but rather, over British Columbia, Alaska, then down over Siberia and into Tokyo for a connector flight to Busan. All told, we were on the road, sleeping in airports or in the air for about 26 hours. We were met at the airport in Busan by our recruiter and quickly ushered to our school to met the director, Mr. Kim.
Mr. Kim, a mild mannered fellow, took us to our hotel for a couple nights stay before moving into our apartment. Our "Love Hotel" was quite comfortable and swanky, equipped with a TV, bottle of wine, tea, condoms, and other fun surprises.
Our next day we found the bank, cashed in some money for Korean Won, about 1 dollar to 925 won, and went hunting for food. We found the bakeries to incredibly posh, decked out with all sorts of treats.
Currently, we have been in our apartment for three weeks after arriving and settling in nicely. Our 3 bedroom pad it tucked up in the foothills on the north edge of town. We on the 15 floor with killer views looking our over a small hill with views of other highrise buildings in the distance. We have grocery stores, restaurants, and bars within walking distance.
The locals here have been incredibly friendly, curious, and patient with our pathetic attempts at communication. We always seem to work out our point. Like the other night, we went into a restaurant and asked if they accepted Visa. The didn't, but insisted on having us staying and eat anyway. The owners, Lim and Bok, an older couple in their 60's were very happy to feed us. We sat around with Lim and did our best to introduce ourselves. In the nicest of ways, Lim told us the food we were eating was a gift and not to come back and pay.