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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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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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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N Seoul Tower

At over 1,500 feet above sea level, the views from N Seoul Tower are fantastic.  At the base of the tower, there is a park where visitors can relax and children can play.  There are also multiple gates on which to affix love locks, a popular symbol in South Korea.

Love locks are personalized padlocks that couples lock onto something to symbolize everlasting love… pretty cheesy.  Korea loves love, and so that’s right up their alley!

Seoul, South Korea

Andy and I visited Seoul Tower right before Chuseok in October.  The park was surprisingly busy, and we were even lucky enough to witness a Joseon Era weapons display.  Due to the holiday, many people were also playing Korean traditional games.  It was a fun atmosphere to say the least!

Playing yutnori, a traditional Korean boardgame
N Seoul Tower
Love locks – so heavy that the gate is bending!
Ancient weapons display

We took the subway to Myeongdong Station, and then walked to the cable car station.  If you’re interested, you can buy padlocks there.  You can then ride the cable car to the base of the tower.

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Typhoon: Sanba

Typhoon Sanba hit South Korea earlier this week.  It was hailed as a Super Typhoon, Category 5, but by the time it descended onto Daegu it was little more than a strong tropical storm.  Other parts of Korea were not so fortunate, but living in an inland valley does have its perks.

Whatever the classification, the storm still meant lots and lots of rain.  Here are some shots I took (with my new Nikon 3100 – a birthday gift from Andy!!) during and after Sanba.

Downtown

Downtown

The stage downtown

Ominous clouds over 2.28 Memorial Park

Finally, some sun!

View of downtown Daegu after the storm

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Freaky Food: Beondegi Round 2

About 3 months, Andy and I faced one of our fears… eating bugs! Beondegi are super popular snacks at Korean events or even sold in stores, similar to popcorn or nuts.  I remember very clearly my distaste for this snack… but Andy wasn’t convinced.  A second round was in order.  Watch the verdict below.

Don’t forget my original post on beondegi!

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International Bodypainting Festival

Fantasy Make-up

Last weekend, Daegu hosted its annual International Bodypainting Festival in Duryu Park.  Bodypainting seems like an unusual choice for such a conservative and modest country, but the massive crowds clearly indicate a lot of interest.

Artists from all over the world were present (including 2 or 3 from the States), as well as international models.  I heard many languages spoken in the various tents.

There were three categories at the festival: bodypainting, fantasy make-up, and most photogenic model.  The contests were on Saturday and the awards on Sunday night.  Either day, I’d recommend going later in the afternoon (after 3pm at least) to see the models with the most amount of paint coverage.  As it gets dark, the models assemble on stage while K-Pop blares into the crowd.  If you get hungry, you can always buy food from one of the vendors lined up next to the field.

My friend Deva wrote a great article for Chincha!? magazine, read it hereWarning: some photos might not be safe for work!!

European models chatting
A Korean artist works on her model
Just a small cross-section of the astounding number of photographers
One of the best – a jaguar prowling on a Korean temple roof
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A letter I received at work

Last week, Sae-hee, one of my first-grade students, surprised me with a package.  Inside said package was a bounty of candy (including gummy frogs) and two letters.  It came from her sister, Sae-yeon, a third-grade student I had had several months ago but who no longer attends my academy.  It turns out she is now attending Moon Kkang, a franchised academy in Korea.

The candy is long gone, but the letters remain.  Check out this cuteness (transcripts below):

Letter one (adorable mistakes intact):

to. Ashely teacher
teacher hi    how are you today?
Oh! I’m Sae-yeon  I’m missing you
teacher I want to go to kimyongjin English academy
because
This academy is very fun
and Ashely teacher is pretty and andy teacher 
is handsome
and I go to moonkkang English academy. But
moonkkang is very boring
and teacher I am very enviable Because your
pretty
and I think your rich or andy teacher is rich
teacher it’s my cell phone number
010.xxxx.xxxx Sometimes call me please
and My younger sister is    go to kimyongjin
you know Sae-hee?
If you want to send letter then
letter is give to Sae-hee then Sae-hee give letter
and can you give cell phone number??
Bye I Love you
Letter two:
Moonkkang Level is 3
My mom said if
you Level up then
you can go kimyongjin
academy
so I study English
hard
How cute is that?? Not sure why she thinks Andy and I are so rich! And no, I haven’t given out my cell phone number… although all Korean teachers do hand out that information.  The teacher/student relationship in Korea is very different than in America.  Teachers see students more often than their own parents do, so it makes sense.
Also you might note my name was misspelled Ashely… this is my biggest pet peeve in Korea and even my coworkers are guilty of it.  Although to be fair, I probably couldn’t spell many of their names.  I think it comes from the Korean pronunciation of 애슐리 which is Eh-Shool-Li.  Drives me bonkers!
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