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.

Click here to view my videos on my You Tube Channel

To view larger images just click on them.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Subway, Eat Fresh?

Pierre and I recently decided to visit the one and only Subway restaurant in our city. Pierre has already been and was rather disappointed, and we have heard less then raving reviews from friends, but we were hungry, in a rush, and in the area. So, away we went!
When we got there, it had just opened, so we were thinking “Alright! Fresh toppings!” Well, were we mistaken! First of all, the topping containers were almost empty. Then, as we began to list off the toppings we wanted on our sandwiches, we noticed that the lettuce was wilted, edged with brown, and rather sad looking. As we notice this less than thrilling fact, the server begins to proudly boast “We have the freshest lettuce in Changwon!”
As we’re trying not to laugh, Pierre notices the fresh cookie display. As I’m a lover of cookies, Pierre excitedly says “Look Honey, you can get fresh-baked cookies!” The proud server once again pipes up, “Yes! Fresh-baked! We made them yesterday!” This guy is not a marketing guru.
Now we’re laughing, finishing up our sandwich order. The server is diligently placing 4 tiny pickle slices, a couple of green peppers, and to Pierre’s horror, only 3 thin tomato slices on his 12 inch sub. So, Pierre asks for more tomatoes. At this point, I should clarify that my 6 inch sub is tomato-less and the server is holding up two slices. As the slices are hovering over my sandwich, the server points out that he only has a few tomatoes left, so he must use them sparingly, in case he gets another customer. Pierre is in disbelief, and asks in a pleading voice “So, I can’t get any more tomato?!” The server, feeling the pressure, says, “Sure. You can have one more.” Well, guess where this extra tomato comes from? My sub! His hovering hands move from my sub over to Pierre’s, where my tomato finds its final resting place! Now, I have a 6 inch sub, with less than fresh lettuce, one tomato, and about 4 shaved bits of turkey meat.
Less than satisfied, but hungry nonetheless, we move to a table to eat our lunch. Well, the server watches us the entire time, waiting for our reactions of joy and glee. When he gets nothing, he finally asks us if it’s delicious. Of course, we politely thank him for the delicious sandwich. Satisfied with another job well-done, he states “Yes, I am good food maker. I have proud in your sandwich!” Still wanting a little more glory, he continues to ask us if Subway restaurants in Canada are the same as this one. We couldn’t bare to tell this proud fellow the truth about our abundantly fresh and overloaded sandwiches prepared with as much, or as little, fresh toppings as we please, so we just politely nod and say, “It’s pretty close!” All this for the whopping price of 14,000 won. Rather steep for a lunch in Korea.
Subway, eat... not fresh!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Korean Traditional Music

On one of our trips, our faithful tour guide Charles brought us to the middle of nowhere and we stayed at a traditional guest house which is also part of a temple. We were 30 minutes late and our tour guide was on the phone getting directions that whole time. When we arrived we found out that there was an event planned for us and we were going to see a small group of young girls do a preformance of traditional Korean music for their families. We walked into a small room filled with people sitting towards the back leaving the front seats for us. It was really something for these young girls since it was a really small town and we were the second group of foreigners to ever stop for the night so it was big news that we were there. We heard a group of 6 girls playing on their Gayageum then 2 girls each did their own traditional Korean dance and then we heard an older girl who was very very good play the Gayageum alone. We later got to drink and eat food from a BBQ to our hearts content and we got to sleep in one of the buildings with blankets and pillows on the floor. It was a great time and I would do it again. I have attached a link to someone playing the Gayageum on YouTube.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Temple and Sights in Hadong

Hadong is very secluded and very beautiful. They have a really old temple and the residents of the temple harvest tea and sell souvenirs for an income. We saw the same things we usually see at a temple however we did get to see monks in action this time which is a rare experience for us thus far. Several of them stood at a big drum that was sideways as one monk drummed a beat and the others stood and listened until it was their turn. They played for a good 20 minutes each taking their turn by smoothly transitioning from one to the other without missing a beat. The sound was really loud and could be heard from a distance which is how we found them in the first place. After they were done beating on the drum they sounded a big bell for a good 10 minutes and walked back into their temple.
The grounds had a few buildings that were open to the public and we saw some carvings that were really big and kind of scary. This one is trying to stab Angele. Every temple has a large quantity of plants that are well maintained. The plants often overgrow walls and other buildings which makes it that much more beautiful. We also found a really nice river that had a few waterfalls in it and we have several pictures of my doing crazy things in front of one of them but I chose to only post 1.

Green Tea Festival in Hadong

In the summer of '08 we went to the Green Tea Festival in Hadong. We took the train to a nearby city and from there we had to take a bus through the mountains and the smallest towns imaginable with really old hut looking buildings. I remember asking Ben several times, "are you sure we are on the right bus?"

Hadong was not much bigger than the towns we saw on the way but it did have a few modern buildings built for tourism and a small tourist strip with restaurants and souvenir shops. Once we got there we went to the information booth and saw that they had a few English translators walking around. We also got these awsome paper ajumma hats that didn't last long and some free green tea.

The festival had a lot of great things to see and do such as making green tea soap, a traditional banner, candals, other arts and crafts, face painting, getting your name written in Korean on a fan and much more. There was also a stage where various artists played music and they had presentations but they were in Korean.

The best activity is visiting all the tea-makers' booths. You can sit with the pros and talk with them. We managed to find a booth with an English speaking lady who spent several years in Vancouver and she told us all about tea. There are a few variations to the tea we were tasting and I only remember the green tea, yellow tea and black tea. Each tea is made the same by pouring warm to hot water through the tea leaves and that's it. You don't let the leaves sit in the water like we do with regular tea back home. They use ceramic 2-3 ounce cups and they sometimes have a ceramic lid to keep the warmth in.

In the museum we got to read all about how green tea was brought to South Korea by a king in the good old days and how tea became well known and important in South Korea. We got to read about the 5 effects of tea and my favorite was #5 Eliminates a hangover. We got to sniff the multitude of tea variances that is grown in South Korea which is what you see here in these gars on posts.

At one point during the day we spotted our translator running around franticly looking for all foreigners. She grabbed us and told us to follow her. We ran to a gathering where a contest was about to start. We were all brought into a quarantined area of green tea bushes and were told to look for small bags that would contain prizes and one golden bag which contained the big prize. I pushed my way through kids and old ladies and searched like I never did before but I didn't find anything.

Making Green Tea

At the Green Tea Festival in a very small town called Hadong we got the opportunity to take part in the process of making green tea. It's really quite simple. First you have to roast the tea leaves in a very hot, big bowl-shaped thing that has a fire burning under it. You have to be sure to toss the tea leaves around while this is happening so not to burn them. We could see the leaves lose life and shrivel up.

Next, the tea leaves are dumped onto a big piece of dry cloth and with your dry cloth gloves you scrunch and roll the leaves around to break all the outer cells of the leaves so that once you make the tea the inside of the leaves will easily be released into your hot water.

And lastly, the leaves are placed on what looks like a screen door and placed on a rack for a few days to dry. To participe, it cost us each $5 and we got a small package of tea made by the previous people. I wonder who is drinking the tea I made?