Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hiking Seun Ja Ryeong Mountain

This past weekend we were invited to join one of our co-teachers on a hike. We were really excited to see more of Korea, so we jumped at this opportunity. We had a wonderful time full of funny stories and we met some really cool people along the way. Only a select few spoke English, but language is nothing when you feel the generosity and love emitted from the people here. Body language and gestures count for more than spoken words.
We went with a group of hikers who travel to a different destination every other weekend. We joined them for their January 17th hike, which was on a Sunday. The bus departed that morning at 7 am and returned home to Busan at 10 pm. We drove for about 5 hours northeast toward the Gangwondo Province where we hiked up the Seun Ja Ryeong Mountain Range. (Here is our group shot--try and find the white people!!)
Preparing for our hike. We had to attach metal spikes on our shoes to grip the ice and snow.

We were able to see many wind turbines on the mountain. The turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical energy (for electricity). Korea=small land+lots of people!

Wind turbines as far as you could see.
Trekking up the mountain.

A small part of our group. We saw literally thousands of hikers that day and not one foreigner. Every person we passed on the trail was Korean. We were the only white people on the mountain! They were quite shocked when they saw us, but friendly nonetheless.

You are looking at the line of hikers on the mountain. This is something you would never see in the states. Most people here are in excellent shape and had no trouble hiking through the snow all day. Koreans really love their outdoor activities! There is such little land for how many people live here so they try and take advantage of it.

From the top of one of the peaks. In the background you can see the Sea of Japan which is on the eastern coast of Korea. Although, calling it the "Sea of Japan" offends many Koreans and it is quite a controversial subject, so Koreans prefer to call it the "East Sea". Fitting, I guess....

So when Jijung invited us to come hiking with her group, she asked us what we would bring for lunch. We replied with the traditional western answer, [PLEASE HOLD ALL LAUGHTER UNTIL THE END] "Uh, probably some sandwiches and peanut butter crackers, maybe some fruit...is that alright?" With a laugh, she replied, "Yeah, that is ok." Little did we know what the Koreans had planned for lunch. We quickly figured out why they carried huge hiking packs for only a 5 hour trek. Lunch time comes and they began pulling out the pots and pans and started cooking all types of Korean food--on the side of the mountain! They saw our pitiful sack lunches and just shook their heads. Then they began shoving their food our way and we ate like a King! Yes, that is sushi in the picture, we had it in our picnic, and yes, Loren is using chopsticks to eat bulgogi (beef). We are becoming experts at this! The way Koreans eat is by sharing EVERYTHING they bring. Nothing is 'mine', or 'yours', it is all communal. Needless to say, we offered our measly sandwiches and crackers. There were no takers.

Panoramic view of the mountain. Sorry the photo is so small; this is the largest I could make it.

An awesome Korean couple who we met on the trip. The woman actually spoke English very well. They constructed this humorous sled for our hiking and sledding adventure! Too funny!

Us sledding! It was SO much fun! We obviously had a great time.

Yes, this is a photo of two grown men on one children's size sled. Completely acceptable and very typical.

It was really windy on top of the mountain!
Loren is saying here, "I love Alaina thiiiiiiiss much!"

A great progressive picture of the wind turbines that was taken by one of the other hikers. The cameras people have here put our little Canon Power Shot to shame. Thankfully we had some awesome photographers that came along.

A couple of our photographers on the trip (taking pictures of each other, hah).

Breathtaking views.

The higher you hiked up the mountain, the less people there were. As the crowd thinned out, it allowed for a peaceful walk through barren trees and powdered snow .

After our hike. We conquered the mountain!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The beginning of 2010

New Years Eve at one of our co-worker's sister's restaurant. It was called Aligote, located on Haeundae Beach. They served steak (yes, real, Australian beef!) vegetables, and different types of wines. Koreans like their wine extremely sweet, so almost all of the wines here taste like dessert wines. We did have a dry, red wine for this meal though....all the way from California!

Celebrating an American New Years with a midnight kiss! In Korea, the new year is not celebrated at midnight; the singal for a new year is when the sun rises. Everyone gathers at the beach or in view of the horizon and stays up all night until the first sight of sun peaks over the horizon. People then celebrate by cheering or praying. We instituted a new tradition for them of kissing at midnight :)

Loren was VERY excited about his real, beef steak. It was delicious!

So for New Years Eve we decided to enter our first talent show. We thought, we are already in Korea, so why not? After much debate and consideration of ideas we came to the conclusion that 'Pillow People' would be our best shot at winning over our Korean audience and co-workers. We constructed these magnificent costumes out of our very own pillow cases. Loren, being the awesome artist he is, drew all of the facial expressions and details. We had a choreographed dance to the popular Korean song 'Superman'. You should definitely YouTube this song....very funny! Everyone loved it and we even ended up winning a gift card!

The other talent show competitors and our prizes.

The Monday after New Years we had a feast at our school. We had no idea all this food would be here this day, we just walked in and there were tables of food!

Spending a morning at Beomeosa temple. Founded in 678 AD, it is the one of the largest and most beautiful temples in Busan.

Statues at the temple.

In the background, notice the huge bell and large log used to sound it.

Monks worshipping Buddha. They were very friendly and some even spoke English.

Korean lanterns

Busan Tower stands 120 meters high on top of a 69 meter hill top. Here we could see an incredible view of the city and enjoyed watching old men in the park and birds swooping down for food from the vendors.

Old men near the Busan Tower playing a traditional Korean game called Paduk.

We accidentally ended up at the Busan City Museum. We say accidentally, because our intention was to visit the Busan Modern History Museum. As you may know, we do not speak Korean, and most Korean taxi drivers DO NOT speak or understand English. Therefore, we encountered a bit of miscommunication and ended up across the city and at a different museum. We made the most of our dilemma and got to know the Busan history. They had a few cool exhibits. Alaina is standing on one of the exhibits here.

Loren is the best husband in the world. Don't even try to fight me on this one. Here he sits, in Busan, on a subway, with our newest addition to our home. An eight foot tall plant. We found it on a website for local foreigners, and a couple was trying to sell it. We needed some greenery in our apartment so we picked the plant up. The tree's location was about 10 subway stops and two transfers away from where we live! Loren carried it the whole way through all the stairs and stares! Needless to say, our tree now resides in our home where we are enjoying it daily. Funny journey though...
Hite is the Korean beer. Yes, they have beer in vending machines here. Good idea, bad idea??
Costco on a Sunday afternoon. Never again.

This past weekend we spent Saturday with the Schauers and explored Geumjeong Fortress. We took a cable car 540 meters up the mountain for another great view of the city.

Amazing to stand here and try to take it all in...really puts things in to perspective of how big God's world is.

We also checked out another museum with the Schauers, the Busan Metropolitan Art Museum. There were all kinds of different pieces here and some really interesting stuff.
A sculpture made out of junk. The horse and carriage is made up of all old electronics.
A huge mural at the art museum!
One famous Korean artist, Kim, was well-known for his paintings of water drops on canvases and other mediums.

A funny statue in PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival) Square. There is a large outdoor market here where we like to shop.

A truck filled with apples! These are the amazing sights we see everyday on our walk to school and around town.

As you can see, 2010 has been filled with lots of exploration, fun and friendships. We hope that you, too, have had a blessed beginning to the year. We love you all and you are in our prayers!