Seongseo Rose Park

A tortoise welcomes you to the park

The Seongseo Rose Park is just ten minutes away from me.  In the spring and summer, there were thousands of sweet-smelling blooms.  In November, most of them have been wrapped up in thatch for the winter season.  Despite this, there are still a few stubborn flowers peppering the scene.

Bundled up for the winter season
Not yet wrapped up
Waryong Mountain in the background

Part of the reason I avoided the park during peak season was the atrociously humid weather – the other, the tremendous bees.  I do regret missing the park at its best, but even in the cool weather it was an enjoyable experience.

tea rose hybrids
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Yongsan Market

Selling cabbage on the street

Traditional markets are everywhere in Korea.  Seomun Market is the largest in Daegu, but there are countless smaller markets on practically every street corner.  Elderly women spread out tarps and sell whatever is in season.  All of the food is grown locally.

Kimchi for sale

Late November is cabbage season, which means its kimchi season as well.  Recipes are passed down through families.  The markets are bursting with cabbage and other kimchi ingredients.  Many families make enough kimchi to last an entire year – although others are starting to buy kimchi at the grocery store.

Radishes?


The Yongsan Market is pretty small.  It’s mostly women sitting on the ground, but there is an actual structure.  It’s in bad shape after years of not being maintained.  Still, it’s a great place to run out to if you need some more potatoes or onions for a recipe.  (You’ll have to buy a dozen, but they last a while.)

Dried rays… yummy

Radishes, turnips, garlic, and cabbage
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Freaky Food: Makchang (막창)

Sometimes, on Wednesday nights, the NETs at my school get together and grab dinner.  A few weeks ago we opted for a Daegu delicacy, makchang (막창).  Similar to chitlins, makchang is actually grilled pig intestines… sounds good, right? They belong to the anju food group, aka food to be consumed alongside soju.  I’m not a soju fan and I was sick… so I opted out.  It’s a popular dish, is appropriately freaky, and originated in this area, so we bit the bullet and tried a place near work.

our makchang on the grill

It was served with lettuce leaves for wrapping, onions, garlic, and some kind of ssamjang.  They also gave us a frosty cabbage soup and squid salad.  The pieces were pretty big so we cut them.

Ultimately… it was good.  It had a slightly sweet flavor, enhanced by the sauce.  We got the spicy variety but it didn’t pack too much heat.  Some of my fellow diners were put off by the chewy texture as well as the flavor.  My Korean coworker described it as “bold.”  Honestly, wrapped up in my lettuce leaf, I didn’t find it to be particularly strong.  Would I eat it again? Yeah.  For the price, though, I’d rather have some good samgyeopsal or galbi.

Freaky Food: Makchang
Verdict: Decent, but not worth the price

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Autumn at the Arboretum

The Daegu Arboretum has a lovely history.  The site was originally used as a landfill from 1986 to 1990.  Today, however, it has been converted into a sprawling botanical garden which also includes several hiking trails.  All of this is free of charge! To get to the Daegu Arboretum (대구 수목원), take the red line south to Daegok, and then follow street signs to the entrance.  They’re in English, Korean, and Chinese.

Autumn is probably not the best season in which to visit, but it’s definitely better than winter.  To compensate for the lack of flowers, the Arboretum is currently hosting a chrysanthemum flower show  which was a bit crowded.  I enjoyed the peaceful walk through the trees regardless.

There are tons of benches and rest areas throughout the grounds, so if I were you, I’d pack a lunch and head over to the arboretum one day for some r&r.  What do you have to lose?

If you’re interested in some of my photos, check them out after the link below.  I’ve been practicing some new things with my camera… 🙂

the entrance

blowing in the wind

by the stream

a chrysanthemum temple

twist twist
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Pepero Day

Gifts from our Friday students

Every country has its corporate holidays; South Korea has Pepero Day.  Pepero (known as Pocky in the US) is a chocolate-dipped cookie and comes in a few different flavors.  November 11 is Pepero Day because the date resembles pepero sticks (11/11).

Happy 빼빼로 Day

Friends and family members exchange boxes, and teachers are no exception.  Andy and I received many boxes from our students, despite the fact that the holiday fell on a Sunday.  The green boxes are my favorite – almond flavor!

Our Monday students didn’t let us down 🙂
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Palgongsan

Fall is rapidly coming to a close, which means winter’s not far ahead… Korea is very, very proud of its four seasons, so Andy and I decided to visit Palgongsan (Mt. Palgong) to see some of the foliage in action.  Palgongsan is Daegu’s highest mountain.

At Daegu Safety Theme Park

We took the bus out there and wandered around the base area for a while.  Some kind of small festival seemed to be going on near the drive-in theater.  I wanted to take the cable car so we bought tickets, and up we went.  The cable car at Palgongsan is considerable nicer than at Apsan, as well as the stations, top and bottom.  The view at Palgonsan is of neighboring peaks and farms, rather than the urban sprawl you can view from Apsan.

Palgongsan

While some of the leaves had fallen already, the remaining ones were beautiful reds and golds.  My favorite are the ginkgo trees, which fan-shaped leaves turn brilliant yellow.

Korean totem poles, jangseung

Like anything worth doing in Korea, it was a bit crowded, but I wouldn’t let that deter you.  To get to Palgongsan, I recommend taking the bus to the Donghwasa stop.  You can take several Palgong buses or the Rapid 1 (급행1).  Have fun!

Mums!
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Halloween Party

Korean students work really hard.  They go to school, then come to after school academy, and then go home to study.  Many of my elementary school students don’t go to sleep until midnight or 1:00am.  Some of them even attend optional classes on Saturday!

My students showing off their “money” – they’re rich!

In recognition of this, my school had a Halloween party on Wednesday.  We wanted to give something back to the students, and let them have a little fun for once!

My classroom, transformed into the Pumpkin Restaurant

It was great.  Based on how many points they’ve accrued (for doing homework or well on tests), they could ‘buy’ candy, food, movie tickets (we set up a theater just for this purpose!), or play Gamble Quiz.  To play Gamble Quiz, you had to pay 2,000 “won,” pull out a ticket, and hope it had a number on it.  If it did, you had to answer an English question and could potentially win a prize.  Some tickets had nothing written on them! So many students blew ALL of their money this way, but it was entertaining nonetheless.  Andy and Yujin were the hosts, and they were hilarious.

Yujin and the gambling crowd

I manned the candy table.  As usual, the younger crowd (grades 1-4) bought most items, so when the older students arrived (5-6), there was almost nothing left.  However, the older students had a lot less points and couldn’t buy as much, so it probably evened out.  In the end, I started bribing them with my personal candy supply – pose for a photo, receive a piece of candy.  Otherwise it’s impossible to take photos of students, especially girls.  They’re very shy.

Andy’s 5th and 6th grade girls

I think most students had fun, although the next day they claimed they didn’t because they didn’t have enough points… Still better than classes, right?


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The Day the Fireworks Were Canceled

I’ve been attending a lot of festivals recently.  Before I even came to Korea, I knew about Busan’s annual fireworks festival, which is one of the best.  I was super excited and planned on going for months.  Finally, the date rolled around and I went.  Of course, that same day, we had some torrential rain and it was canceled.  I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Found him.

That doesn’t mean I wasted a day in Busan! Emily, Andy, and I visited Shinsegae Centum City, the largest department store in the world.  It was tremendous… 14 floors, including a golf course, a park, a movie theater, an ice rink, a spa, a wax museum, tons of restaurants and shops, and more.  The basement even has a replica of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

We were there for a bit of shopping, but afterwards we had a some lunch (next to the ice rink, naturally).  While wandering around, we realized we could do a package deal on Madame Tussaud’s and the Busan Aquarium – both places I’d never been.  We decided to go for it!

Andy and one of his neighbors

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum was a bit small, but I was surprised by how lifelike most of the replicas were.  A few were pretty poor, but these were rare.  Being Korea, everything was made into the biggest photo op possible, including props such as wigs, hats, boas, microphones, etc.

Group shot!

Next stop: Busan Aquarium in Haeundae.  This aquarium is right next to the sea, and it was crazy to see how massive the waves were due to the storm.  We ducked inside for cover and explored.  The best part was the underwater tunnel, where you could see sharks and other creatures swimming overhead.  Busan also offers scuba diving in the shark tank, something I am considering!

hermit crab in a clear shell

Since the festival was canceled, we caught KTX back to Daegu and ended the night downtown.  It was fun to see everyone’s Halloween costumes, although it’s not huge in Korea like it is back home.  All in all, a good (but wet) day.

Will this be me?
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Mungyeong: Exploring rural Korea

Most Korean citizens live in identical high-rises in the cities.  These white towers climb 20 stories or more.  Having a house is almost unknown, unless you live in the country.  These days, however, younger people are flocking to the cities and droves and leaving the country pretty much empty.  I’ve never really had a reason to visit these remote locations… until recently.

I signed up for a day trip with the Daegu Compass, a local publication for foreigners.  We were originally going to go salmon fishing (with our hands!), but due to low water levels this was canceled.

We did many different things instead, and really enjoyed the countryside.  It’s easy to forget how beautiful Korea is when you can’t see anything but apartment blocks.  So many gorgeous mountains and beautiful rivers!

Omija berries

First, we went to an omija farm and made soap.  Omija is a five-flavored berry used mainly for tea.  We put some of the omija essence in our soap! Definitely a random activity, but we needed something to occupy the salmon-fishing time slot.

Making soap – mine is a robot!

Then we wandered outside to a giant pool full of salmon.  The farm employees hopped in there with nets and wrangled up a few fish.  One of our group was brave enough to try it himself! The water was only about knee-deep in some places, as opposed to chest-high, so it wasn’t as challenging as it would normally have been.

Posing with our lunch

After the fish were caught, the employees cut some up sashimi-style and threw some on the grill.  It was delicious!

on the grill

We then had a lovely bibimbap lunch at a restaurant nearby.  As if we weren’t full enough, we drove to an apple orchard to pick fruit.  The apples were huge! Mungyeong, the city we were in, is well-known for its apples.

Orchard in Mungyeong

One last activity to fill our itinerary… shooting! We went to the Mungyeong Shooting Range, which is located in a beautiful valley.  Koreans are forbidden from owning guns; there’s not even hunting in this country.  The military and police are the only exception.  A shooting range, therefore, is your only opportunity to hold or shoot a weapon.  I’d never been to a shooting range before, but I was pretty excited to try it out.  I opted for pistol shooting, and even got to aim at a paper target on the wall! Considering I’d never held a gun before, I think I did pretty well.

Just check out that inner circle!!
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Jinju Lantern Festival

Jinju, a city in South Gyeongsan province, is well-known for many things.  It is the site of the first and second sieges by the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-3), home of yukhoe bimimbap, or raw beef mixed rice, and also the location of the annual Lantern Festival.

Pre-illumination

It was the last thing that brought me all the way to Jinju one weekend.  I’d heard great things about this festival – these lanterns are better described as illuminated works of art, from traditional to contemporary.

Just switched on!

A group of friends and I caught an early bus to Jinju and wandered around the city until we found a motel.  We then tried the delicious yukhoe bimbimbap you read about earlier.  The lanterns were all over the river and neighboring parks.  We strolled around a park and witnessed the first signs of fall – crisp, cool air and changing leaves.  As we were admiring the soldiers, the lanterns turned on.

Superman

The river is where all of the action was… not only were the lanterns beautiful, but the reflections on the black water made it twice as pretty.  It definitely created a new challenge for me and my DSLR, but I think some of the shots came out okay.

OMG a dinosaur!!

While sitting on the riverbank and admiring the view, some of the homemade paper lanterns came floating to our spot.  These paper lanterns each contained a small candle.  Due to the current of the river and the small bushes by the bank, they were gathering in a small mass.  Unfortunately… some of the lanterns caught on fire! We were watching this for a while (out of any danger) until some police showed up.  They seemed pretty baffled and just poked the lanterns with a big stick until the fire went out.  Crisis averted.

A moving, smoking dragon

The next day, we were pretty tired, and caught an early(ish) bus home.  I definitely recommend this festival for any interested parties!! We took a bus from Daegu to Jinju and easily found a motel the day of.

in the lantern tunnel

Doing their job
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