2 Canadians in Korea

Welcome to our blog. It's designed to give people back home an idea of what it's like living in South Korea and to allow you to follow us on our journey.

I've been blogging a lot of facts and I feel I should say that some of it is copy pasted from books, the internet and the signs that I took pictures of at the tourist site itself.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Paradise Island in South Korea

On our sailing trip we stopped at a beautiful island that made us feel like we were on a cruise ship in the Caribbean but no, we were in South Korea eating Kim-chi. The island had a very small village on it and the "hut" properties were surrounded by walls, some of which were up to 7' high making it feel like we were walking around a maze. We had breakfast at a small restaurant on the island and we ate fried fish, mashed / mixed seafood, small clams, kimchi, rice and a few other Korean side dishes. We had plenty of time to explore the island and we found a little shop that sold beer and other corner store products. We found all kinds of neat things like the rock face that Angele fell in love with and kissed. I'm pretty sure he blushed. The island was connected to several other small islands by sand bars and as the tide would go up some of the connections were lost so they built bridges to connect the main ones for high tides. We wandered away on our last day and found what I thought would be a perfect place for a small hotel. There were a  few small pools in the rocks that were frequently filled by waves splashing in. Some of those pools were a little dangerous so we didn't swim in them, but others were a little more safe like this one. We spent a good 2 hours just sitting in there talking about my hotel idea while drinking beer and soju and getting washed by the waves. Don't worry mom, it was completely safe. The most dangerous part was going back to the boat as the tide had come in and the sand bar was almost submerged under water. Another hour and we would have had to swim back I think. 

I climbed a rock that was a little easier going up than down, but once I was on top I was really glad I did it. The waves were coming in really hard and were slamming on all the rocks around me, which made it hard to talk to the guy I was standng next to. 
The sound was really good but I thought they needed a maestro to direct the orchestra and did they ever. As soon as I got on board the waves came in more organized and it was beautiful. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dinosaur Footprints

On our sailing trip we were brought to a beautiful small island that had sand bars connecting several islands together. We were told that there were dinosaur footprints on the island. Someone thought this would be a major tourist attraction and it might have been at one time but not anymore. This building behind the dinosaurs is near the docks and used to be a tourist information centre but now is just an abandoned building with washroom facilities. We spent 3 or so hours wandering around the island in search of these so called dinosaur foot prints but not one person from our boat found them. Angele and I decided to pretend we found them which is what you see in this picture here. Her drawing wasn't far from the real thing other than the size difference. We were expecting huge footprints like we saw in Jurassic Park.
Since no one found the footprints our captain decided to stop by the island on the next day to give us another chance and this time I found a picture of the island with the "X" marks the spot. I was able to find the area where the dinosaur footprints were. We figured out that unless you were there in the morning before the tide comes in you can't see them because they are under water and that's one of the reasons why no one found them the day before.
We were told that the dinosaurs stepped in clay, or something like it, and it hardened shortly after which created the footprints. The footprint was filled with sand and then covered with more rock which helped preserve it. With time the top layer of rock broke off and the sand washed out leaving the footprints for us to find.
This information about the process is only as accurate as I remember hearing it so please don't quote this on any kind of important paper you may be writing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tall Ship Sailing Trip

We found a group on Facebook that is lead by a Korean man by the name of Charles. He does foreign relations for one of the major companies in South Korea and he plans all the trips for the important people from other countries that come to Korea on business with his company. On his spare time he plans trips for the foreigners that are already here. We have been on two of his trips so far and we will surely be going on more. They are very cheap as he doesn't do it to make a profit and since this is what he does for a living we find all kinds of things that we would never find on our own.

Near the end of August, Angele and I went on a sailing trip with Charles. It was a big party on a boat really but it felt like we
were on a cruise. We left Friday night at 12 midnight and drove through the night to our destination. We climbed a small mountain near the ocean shore to watch the sunrise from a temple. After picking up supplies, food and booze, we went to our ship, the Koreana.
The ship was really amazing as it had surprisingly enough room for 50 + to sleep below deck although almost everyone slept above deck under the stars. We made several stops to swim and tour one of the islands along South Korea's Southern shores. We came back Sunday afternoon and bused it back home at around 11pm.
It was a beautiful weekend and we would definitely do it again. The trip was $150/person and worth every penny. I will be posting about a few other things we did on this trip later.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Speech Contest

This Halloween, we had a speech contest which, no matter how low key the event is, it seems to be very important to kids and their parents. I had the honour of being one of the judges and it was quite fun. Most of the kids recited a poem or a short story, some recycled a small speech they had written for another contest, and very few wrote a new speech.

The winner was one of the students that I had previously mentioned in another post. He wrote a speech specifically for this contest and I corrected it. At first, I thought it was a joke since the title was "My Sexy Panty". The origial version was even funnier since there was some pretty good Konglish in it, but this is the corrected speech that he did in front of the class. The best part was his sidekick who was wearing a gold cape and he held out the briefs as Raphael proceeded to point out the characteristics of his briefs, with his retractable pointer! This picture was taken a week later.

My Briefs
Hi, I'm Raphael! I will tell you about my sexy briefs. Yesterday, I observed my fantastic briefs. Why did I observe my briefs? Because they are shiny and beautiful and attracted my line of vision. First, I observed the colors. My briefs are brown and dark brown with stripes and they have a cute mouse on them. Second, I observed my lovely briefs shape and noticed they are quadrilateral. (his word, not mine) Third, I observed my beautiful briefs height which is 30 cm. I observed my briefs and realized that briefs have a great task, they hide our things. I think everyone should join me to love and honor our briefs. Thank you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Pumpkins

They don't celebrate Halloween the same as us in South Korea. Some kids will wear a custome but it was mostly just at our school. They don't go trick or treating and they don't carve pumpkins. Angele and I and four other teachers got together and carved pumpkins for the schools. It took us 3.5 hours and a big mess later and we had 6 beautiful pumpkins. During this process we found out that they don't trick or treat in Australia, England or South Africa either. The idea of knocking on someone's door and asking for candy seemed crazy to our non-Canadian friends. It was the first time carving a pumpkin for Vanessa (SA), Sonia (Aus.) and Anna (Korean). Ben was a seasoned pro and is unfortunately behind the camera on these pictures so you can't see him. The pumpkins turned out quite nice and were a great hit at school. The kids were amazed to say the least and I found out that most of the Korean teachers had never seen a carved pumpkin in person before. A lot of firsts were had in South Korea this Halloween. I made the one I'm holding and Angele made the big one one the ground. She also made a small one the next day with the School's logo on it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

School Trip #2

Every several months our school takes us out on what they call a school picnic but it's really a school trip with a lunch. This time we drove for 1.5hrs or so to an unknown destination where we had a wonderful Korean style picnic, saw a temple and bought some pumpkins.
The picnic had a variety of Korean dishes and we did try most of them however Angele and I mostly ate the vegetables as you can't go wrong with those.
I climbed a tree for the first time in probably 15 years. I didn't make it very high and it took me a while to get back down but it was still as fun as I remembered it.
The fall season has arrived and so have the beautiful colours of the leaves. The mountains are amazing and a must see.
The temple was one of the nicer ones we saw since they had recently repainted some of the buildings and they had nice landscaping. They had a lot of trees which added colour to what is usually a very green scenery at a temple. They also had a tree that it is said was planted over 1000 (I will verify this fact) years ago by a monk (will verify this fact.) Each year this tree was fertilized with rice wine by the monks which helps it grow and stay strong.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Ok! OkOk! Ok! so I haven't posted anything in a while. I have been getting emails and threats so here I start up again.
There is a Costco in Daegu which is approx 1hr drive or train from Changwon and we have done both in the past 4 months. Our last trip was by car so we were able to purchase a little more and we spent a whopping $425.00. It was cheaper when we took the train, $240.00.

Costco in South Korea is pretty much the same as in Canada. A few differences are: The food court serves chopped spanish onions that you mix with mustard and/or ketchup for a beautiful side dish, dig in. They also sell alcohol and they carry a lot of brands from back home that you can't get anywhere else. We have been able to find most of the products that we loved from back home like bacon, cheese, gronala bars, cereals and Angèle's favorite, Crown Royal.

We could also order online from Costco and they will ship the cold products in a cold box however there is a $10 or $20 charge and you have to set something up with your bank to make the online purchase as they don't accept most major credit cards. If you are coming to South Korea and you have a Costco card, bring it. We didn't think there was one here so we didn't and we found out that we could have used our membership card. Oh well. Learn from my mistakes.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lanterns, lanterns and more lanterns...

Near the end of April, the entire country of South Korea decorated itself with lanterns in preparation for Buddha's birthday. This is a National Holiday in May that changes dates each year. This year it was May 12th.

Our friend Ben found a free lantern making event being held at Hong Beop-Sa temple in Busan. It was an event for foreigners only and it was very well organized. They had a bus pick us up from the closest subway station and it brought us to and from the temple. They also had several English speaking people to assist us in our lantern making attempts and they had everything required to make our lanterns. Did I mention the event was free? Very nice of them...

I cloned the end result of our lanterns in the grass on the left in the second picture. The lanterns are hanging in our living room to add color to our white apartment.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

School Trip #1

Here are a few pictures from a school trip we had a few months ago. All the teachers from the 3 Reading Town schools went on this trip organized by the school owner. We had a traditional Korean meal with very tasty fish and the oppurtunity to make some famous Korean food.
First off, we went far into the mountains to get to our destination. We saw buildings that told stories from long ago just by looking at them. It was a very small town with a lot of beautiful scenery. It was like the Ramore of South Korea.

Next, we made some tofu using these 2 solid stones that crushed and grinded beans into the white pasty cream you see falling off the side of the stones. We added the beans in a hole on the top and a little water to make a better fluid consistency. The rest (boiling and such) was taken care of by the Korean chefs. Next thing we knew, we had made tofu.

We also made some Korean rice cakes. More fun to make than it is to eat. Basically, take cooked sticky rice and hammer it until it's turned into one thick gluey consistency and add some kind of flour and it becomes a rice cake!
Our last stop was at a train station where there was an old TV/movie set for a Western cowboy style movie, where we met this cool old guy making everything out of straw. Shoes, hats, bowls, stuffed pets, you name it, he made it. He loved having his picture taken with foreigners too and he had a great smile. Thank you Reading Town for a great trip.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


A long time ago, Greg posted a question: "What kind of wildlife (if any) is in South Korea?" I have since been looking for wildlife and I haven't found much. They have a lot of birds and cats, does that count? By the way, I think the sand in the small park outside our building is one big litter box because we frequently see several cats hanging around there.

We have recently taken a trip to Gyeong Ju which is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) and famous cities in South Korea. They had ruins that date back to BC times. They have made several tourist attractions in this city and one of them is a nature walk where some of the old ruins remain, which was really cool. We saw some of the most beautiful flowers, trees and what is really rare here, nice grass.

We took some really cool shots of butterflies and my favorite is the spider. The white lines must be the mark to where his home base is on his net. Angèle caught a spider in action and the story is quite long but if we are sharing a drink at some point and looking for something to talk about, bring it up...

We also saw a few squirrels and chipmunks and this little guy was running from tree to tree while I was trying to take a picture of him. As I was about to snap the shot he stopped, stood up for 1.2 seconds, just long enough for me to take my picture, and ran off. It almost felt like he posed for me.

If we see any more wildlife action, we will try and capture it for you.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Stone Walk

Throughout Changwon, and I'm sure other cities as well, there are parks and school with stone walks. I don't know their real name so stone walk it is.

There is usually a short path of about 20 feet and then a circular path at the end where you could walk around for hours massaging your feet. You are supposed to take your shoes off at the start of the path, then walk to the circle on the stones then walk around the circle until you or your feet have had enough. We usually see children playing on them. However, I have seen one older man walking around and he did it for at least 30 mins and he was still going when we left the park. He looked like it he was doing it as a prayer more than to massage his feet.

It looks painful but we haven't taking time to take off our shoes and try it to be able to comment on how it feels.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rice Fields

As we travel across South Korea we see thousands of flooded fields everywhere and it tooks us about 2 months of wondering what they were before we finally asked and it turns out that they are rice fields. I figure they must build the field in a bed of clay or something that retains water as I never see them being filled. Read more about it here.

According to Wikipedia, the traditional method for cultivating rice is flooding the fields with or after setting the young seedlings. This simple method requires sound planning and servicing of the water damming and channeling, but reduces the growth of less robust weed and pest plants that have no submerged growth state, and deters vermin. Whilst with rice growing and cultivation the flooding is not mandatory, all other methods of irrigation require higher effort in weed and pest control during growth periods and a different approach for fertilizing the soil.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Golfing Disaster

Here is a little story about Ben and Pierre's golf adventure. We went to a "driving range" style place and I think they call it screen golf because of the screen tent to keep the balls in. We were wondering about the cost and if they had simulation golf and we were going to play if we could afford it.

It was almost 10pm and the place was packed so we couldn't play simulation golf, but we were allowed to shoot a bucket of balls called a box, which is a little bigger than the large basket of balls back home, but the wait was 20 minutes. Then, we asked about clubs and she looked on the computer and said there is a 7 iron we can use. That's it, one 7 iron.

Then, the club Pro showed up and asked a few questions and told us to come with him. He brought us to his bag and his bucket of balls and said we can use his stuff and we get a special discount - FREE! We got really excited and I got ready. The Pro wanted to give me an iron and I asked for the driver instead. I streched a little and then lined up for my shot.

I should probably mention that Ben and I walked for about 20 minutes to get there and it was a warm night so I was a little sweaty and the club's grip wasn't very good, it was quite slick.

So, I lined up for my shot and everyone stood around to see the foreigner play golf. I'm sure they were asking themselves if he was good... Then began the worst swing of my life! I missed the ball and the club slipped right out of my hands, hit the metal rooftop and bounced near the person playing behind me and flew to the next person behind him! I was so surprised as I'm sure everyone else was that I didn't even get a chance to feel embarassed right away. I turned around and saw a bunch of faces all saying the same thing, "Holy Shit!" Once the shock settled and the Pro got his club and inspected it he said very firmly in a small yelling tone to "RELAX!" I think he was mad. I asked for a glove and tried again and it went much better.

I managed to only make a small dent in the Pro's golf club and I think I ruined it for all foreiners who might stroll into that place in the future. I don't think he will let anyone use his clubs anymore!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mask Museum

We went to a museum in Changwon called the Seongsan Art Hall and it was showing a mask exhibit with masks and other artifacts from all over the world. We saw some really interesting pieces from Tutankhamun to Native American totem poles. If you were wondering what they had for the Canada section, it was a few Chief head dresses and totem poles.

We saw some really nice wood carved masks that were really old, some were interesting, some were not. A few of the masks were half the size of a grown man with detailed carvings on every inch which was really quite amazing.

We found this really cool wood carved chair called the Dogo Chair and it belonged to the Dogon tribe leader in Mali. They carved it out of a big log and again every inch had detail. The back had a very intricate statuete carved in it. Very awsome!

The event was easy to get to and at $3.50 cnd a person (if memory serves me right) it was quite cheap. Angele, Ben and Vanessa went back the next day and made a mask of their own using the arts and crafts they provide for kids. Angele's mask didn't turn out as fancy as Ben's and Vanessa's but I still like hers the most.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cherry Blossom Festival

We had no idea what the Cherry Blossom Festival was until one day out of no where we were, just like every other day of the week, walking to school and imagine our surprise when we saw what used to be bare trees look like this overnight. As soon as we got to work we asked about the beautiful flowers growing on the trees and that's when we found out what the Cherry Blossom Festival was.
We were told that the best place to be for the festival was in Jinhae which should have been 30 mins away but because of all the traffic it took us a little over 1 hour to get there and we were still not at the centre of the attraction. We walked for about 1 mile through a beautiful town glowing with cherry blossoms. The sad part is that these flowers only last about 2 weeks and sometimes less due to weather. They had bloomed about 1 week before we were there and already they were falling from the trees. With a little wind the pedals from the flowers fly away, my kids call it snowing cherry blossoms. We tried to catch it in action here but it's hard to see.

They also have a hiking trail in Jinhae that is lined with these trees and you can see where the trail goes in the mountain as you see a white cherry blossom line along the mountain. Read more about cherry blossoms here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Festival's Food Options

Where there is a festival, there has got to be food. We managed to find some of the best foods for festivals that we would like to see back in Canada and here are the top 5.
1. Chicken on a stick, taco-gui go-gi in Korean is definitely our favorite. We find it everywhere and there are several stands that are loyal to their daily spots and would know us by name if we spoke Korean. We have blogged about this before but look at the size of these ones. Wow! 52 cm of chicken goodness. Yummy! $1-$2 cnd.
2. Tornado Potato. We don't see this as often but everytime we find someone making these puppies we buy one. They have a spiny tool that cuts the potato in one big spiral then they impale it onto a stick and deep fry it until crispy then they shake off the excess oil and you get to dip it into salty flavoured seasonings like BBQ and cheddar. We have got to make these back home. $1 cnd.
3. Coconut juice stands. Angèle loves these and they are full of coconut juice and lasts quite a while for Angèle. Then we bring the coconut home and she eats the coconut after I break it up. $3 cnd.
4. Crab booths. We have seen several of these guys at big events and we haven't tried any since Angèle doesn't like seafood and I don't think I would like crab without the garlic butter. From what I've seen they don't get much tools to eat this with either.
5. Last but not least, pig roast. They only roast the sides of the pig and we didn't try any yet because we saw them cut the portions for people to buy and they have 50/50 meat and fat. It smells great when we walk by and if they only gave you the good meat we would totally buy some, but they don't...
6. Beer. You can buy beer at just about any booth that sells food or small convenience stores around the festival and you can get a good price if you look around. We were paying $1.50 cnd a can and you can walk around anywhere you want while drinking. The liquor laws are very relaxed here.