Went for another hike with the same group on Saturday. Turned out to be the same mountain as last time, but we did a different route. Weather was much better this time - hard not to be better when the last time there was a typhoon coming through. Got some pictures this time, so thought I'd write another update.
The trails were incredibly crowded. Literally hundreds of people (possibly thousands) hiking on the mountain.
We did the stop at the top and pulled out the full spread of food and booze (and even a bucket of kimchi). Whiskey, beer, some clear bottles of Korean liquor (don't know the name yet), and once again those evil green little bottles of Soju. On the interesting food side, there where some red dried fruits stuffed with peanuts (looked like a small one of those hot dog in a blanket finger foods you'd see at parties, except that the blanket was a fruit which looks like a dried cherry and the hot dog was actually peanuts). Also had some octopus jerky (complete with the suction cups - it's the stuff in the plastic bag on the lower left of the photo). I was still fighting a bit of jet lag and also hadn't gotten my eating patterns back in sync yet, so did my best to keep it light. But Koreans are incredibly gracious hosts and continued to offer me more foods and drinks.
Side note - the foods I eat may gross some of you out. It turns out they may also gross out other Asians. I saw this first-hand when I was in Beijing a month ago. One of the women from our Beijing office looked very hesitant about trying sea cucumber at a Japanese restaurant. Prior to that, I had figured that the Chinese eat anything and everything such that nothing would surprise them. But this reminded me that every culture has a set of foods they are used to, and have foods which others eat and they would consider weird.
Back to the hike - one of the benefits of living in a climate that has 4 seasons (unlike California) is that I get to see the trees turning. We were probably a week or two too late to catch the most colors, but there were still many amazing areas. Of course the downside of an area that has 4 seasons is that they have 4 seasons - it has been 10 years since I have lived in an area where it snows. The temps barely get up to the 60s now, so the seasons are making themselves known. I am already planning trips to warm areas (Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) to escape from the cold and blustery winter here.
Because I wasn't feeling 100%, I decided to cut out at the earliest convenient point. So after the hike and dinner, I asked to be dropped off at the nearest subway station to head home. Means I missed the naked Korean hot tub experience and all of that fun.
Sunday was a bit more relaxed. Went for a run and then a coworker came over my way to watch a drum festival/parade with me. I didn't even know this was going on until I jogged right through the middle of them setting up. Hundreds, if not thousands, of performers were milling around. There was some semblance of order to make it a parade, but it really was hard to tell what was them warming up/getting into order and what was the true parade. There were some international performers, but most were traditional Korean. The centerpiece was the world's largest drum - some 5 meters in diameter. Definitely a very loud area.
This all took place at the Sejong Cultural Center, which is across the street from the US Embassy. The embassy normally has a sizable contingent of police around it - between that and the walls, it looks more like a prison. Today had the largest contingent I had ever seen - they literally had the embassy circled with police shoulder to shoulder. Even had cordoned off in the same way the building next to it (some sort of Korean Government building, I think). Had to be hundreds of police. Intense. Guess Americans aren't always well liked in this world.
While waiting for my friend to show up, I was watching a show on the English-language Korean TV channel on sex in a married couple's relationship. Sex is supposed to be controlled by the kidneys under eastern medicine, so kidney problems are something you should watch out for. Even impotence and premature ejaculation are related to kidney problems. They talked about a variety of fixes for sexual problems, involving herbs to improve a kidney's health and massage. It was a bit of a broad overview, but the emphasis was on fixing medical problems in a male only, as if that alone would give the couple a great sex life. Looks like I learn something new every day…
Good news! Bagels have reportedly been sighted at the Dunkin Donuts near my office. It will be nice to have a local source, if this is really is the rare and elusive bagel. I'll have to check them out to see if they meet my now much reduced standards.
I've now been in Asia for 3 months. This means I am a quarter of the way through my planned stay of one year. My company is changing so fast that anything could happen (I could get recalled back to the States, sent to some other locale for a while, or most likely given the opportunity to stay longer if I want). On the whole, the trip is going very well. I am learning a lot and am amazed at the experiences I've been able to have. On the other hand, I am not picking up the language nearly as fast as I had hoped and do miss my friends and biking and many of the benefits of living in California. I've found an unexpected pick me up for when my mood gets down. I just read my online journal or review the photos I have taken (I have many - I only post about 1 out of every 50 or so that I take) and think about the experiences and opportunities I've had and my mood improves pretty quickly.Previous Post - Back to Menu - Next Post