Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In Which We're About to Leave Korea

So, we go back to the United States in three days. THREE DAYS! I have to say, I'm ready. There are definitely things I'm going to miss. That's half of what this blog post is about. But there are plenty of things that I've gotten tired of. I'll let you all know in advance that this post could be a little long, but I'm pretty sure it will be awesome. If you're interested in my take on Korea as a whole, then this is it. Here we go!

I'll start with things that I'm going to miss about Korea. I'll do it in a numbered list.

1. Eating out cheap. Seriously. Eating out can be crazy cheap here. There are a couple places where you can get a really solid meal for like three dollars.

2. Public transportation. Jeju's public transportation isn't perfect, but it's pretty awesome, and it's cheap! There are a lot of cities with good public transport back home, but they're all really expensive. In Provo it was like 2.25 just to ride the bus for like ten blocks. Here, all of the buses that don't leave the city cost one dollar. On the mainland it's even better with subways and trains and everything.

3. Traditional markets. They're awesome. I don't think we have anything quite like it back home. You go there and they have EVERYTHING and it's all just sitting there in this dirty place surrounded by people selling everything from fish to puppies to cookies to pig heads to fruit and vegetables.

4. Friendliness. In general, South Korea has been the friendliest Asian country we've been to. Granted, that's out of the three that I've been to. People in general seem to be pretty nice here, though.

5. Convenience stores! They are EVERYWHERE and they're actually convenient! You can get almost anything at one and it's not stupidly expensive like convenience stores are back home.

6. Asian-style buildings. I think they're cool. Here's a picture of one of my favorites:

Daigo-ji in Japan.
Anyway, we don't really have these back home and I'll miss them.

7. The ocean in general. This has been the first time I've spent very much time around the ocean, and I love it. Seriously, it's awesome. I like the beaches, I like the coast, I like the waves, I like the sea creatures, and I'm not a huge fan of the seaweed, but I can handle it. Arizona is altogether too landlocked for my taste, but there's not much I can do about that. So, I'll miss the ocean.

8. The Halla Arboretum. We live right nextdoor to this place, and it's fantastic. Those who have been reading our blog may have learned that I've started running a lot while we've lived here. The Halla Arboretum is the perfect place to run, and I hope I can find something as good down in Phoenix.

9. Mount Halla. It's always there, and it's awesome. It's just always looming over the whole island, and I'll miss looking up and seeing it all the time.

10. Our branch. The Jeju branch is fantastic. Everyone has been super nice and really welcoming and they've always been really helpful and understanding to me, even though I haven't put any effort into learning Korean. They've shown us a lot of love and kindness and we'll miss all of them a lot. Something else I'll miss about church here is singing hymns in Korean. It's fun.

11. Korean in general. I'll miss it a little. It's a cool sounding language. There are things that I won't miss about it, but I'm not to that part of the list yet.

12. Our work schedule. I'm not going to lie. Starting work at 1:00 every day is pretty awesome. I've definitely gotten used to it.

13. Street food. They don't have street food in the United States, and I love it. Things like odang and hotteok and ice cream waffles are sadly lacking back home.

14. Last, but not least, spending time with my wife. We're together all the time here, and I'm going to miss that.

Now, on to the things that I won't miss/am glad to get away from. I'm afraid this list might be a little longer. Some of them may just be things that I think are funny.

1. Taking my life into my hands every time I leave the house. Yes, I'm talking about driving. I've mentioned it before, but Koreans are TERRIBLE drivers. I'm afraid that the stereotype is founded. And people say, "They're not bad drivers, they just drive differently!" I say, yeah, they drive differently. And it's swerving across eight lanes of traffic at a time on a regular basis and making me feel like I'm constantly on the brink of death. And I'm not even in the car! Eventually I got used to almost getting vehicularly murdered a couple times a day, but I'm certainly not going to miss it.

2. Not having a clothes dryer. They pretty much don't exist here, and having to hang your laundry basically doubles the amount of work you have to do.

3. The fact that ovens barely exist. No baking. That's the way it works in Korea. Maybe you have a toaster oven. It sucks.

4. The lack of things that I love. All I have to say about this is that when I get back, I'm going to buy a huge root beer and a bag of black licorice and make myself sick.

5. Not being able to buy clothes. Korean clothes just aren't built in my size. I've looked a lot, but no matter what, the largest size they have is always a bit tight on me. I can make it work, but it makes me look really fat. And shoes? Forget about it. About the biggest size they usually have is around US 10.

6. Everything in the bathroom getting soaked when you take a shower. They don't believe in bathtubs here. Or shower curtains. Or even enclosed showers, really. The shower head is just chilling in a corner of the bathroom and you shower there, and it drains into the floor, thus the entire bathroom gets wet, so you can't keep anything in there.

7. Everything being mini-sized. Seriously. Drinks are small. Hamburgers are small. Our fridge is tiny. Our apartment is small. Even the light switches are lower than they are back home! I don't notice it as much these days but I'm certainly not going to miss it, either.

8. BUGS!!! Holy dang. I never knew before now that mosquitoes in the house were such a big issue. They don't believe in having your house seal properly here, so they can always get in, and they are always biting you. Not to mention the bajillion other bugs here, not the least of which are the enormous spiders that are EVERYWHERE in the late summer and early fall. Not going to miss that. Sure, we're moving to the land of scorpions and tarantulas, but I'm hoping that those won't be quite so common.

9.  Not being able to understand things at church. I've picked up some words here, but I still only understand about one word in 20 when someone is talking, which definitely isn't enough to understand what's going on. Nancy translates for me, of course, and other members translate for me in priesthood and Sunday school (Nancy taught primary) but I still wish I could have understood for myself, though obviously not enough to actually put in the effort to learn Korean.

10. Not being able to ask questions about things at the store. This is a different page of the same book. I don't speak Korean, so if I have a question about something, it's generally too bad.

11. Korean in general. Like I said, it's a cool sounding language, but it's also kind of annoying. The main reason? I think a lot of Koreans sound really whiny when they're talking, and they're not whining. They're talking about what they had for lunch or what their plans are for the weekend. That conspires to make my students sound even more whiny than they actually are (and they're pretty whiny) because the intonation that they're used to using is kind of obnoxious already.

12. Our work schedule. What I don't like about it is that we don't get off until 8:20 every night. That's not as awesome as starting at 1:00. I mean, you can't have everything, but I think I actually prefer getting off earlier to starting later.

13. Having almost no friends. Now, don't get me wrong. We have friends. There's some great people in our branch and we get along fine with our coworkers. However, over the year we've lived here, we've actually gotten together and hung out with people about six times. NOT ENOUGH. This has been a definite reminder that friends are good, and we're really looking forward to seeing all of our friends back home again.

14. SMOKING. Did I emphasize that enough? I'm not sure I did, but I'm not sure I want to go farther, because it will probably be obnoxious. Seriously, though. Maybe I was just insulated from it in Utah, but it feels like way more people smoke here than do back home, and I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining it. I heard a statistic (scientific, I know) that 70% of Korean men smoke, and I'm surprised that the number isn't higher. You can't go outside here without inhaling second-hand smoke, and I do not like it. I'm hoping that it won't be so bad in Phoenix, because it definitely wasn't that bad in Utah.

15. No carpets. The only building I have been in that has had carpet was the church, and that was weird carpet. It is in squares that are just kind of laying on the floor and get sucked up off the floor by the vacuum. I'm not sure what the deal is, but they don't use carpets here. Only linoleum. And you'd think that with the whole, "take off your shoes when you come inside" thing, they'd be even more likely to have carpets, but no. To be truthful, I'm not sure what the deal is with the taking off your shoes when you come inside is, especially at school, because they have all linoleum floors. That's a lot easier to clean than carpet. Those are just my thoughts. And I want carpet again.

16. Standards of service. We've noticed this the most lately. Most business (restaurants are usually a notable exception, but not always) have really surly service. We go inside and they scowl at us, and then if we have the gall to ask them a question, they act really put-off by it, like we're ruining their day by wanting to give them our money. I don't know how so many businesses stay open here, because the service is awful. Maybe that's what Koreans expect, but I don't want to be treated like I'm a dirty spot on a floor when I come into someone's store.

17. Not being able to browse at stores. Another thing on stores. If you go into a small shop, you can't browse. The people come up and hover and offer suggestions. (One time a lady told Nancy that she should buy the XXL size long underwear, because it was her size. That didn't get her any points.) Personally, I don't like to be hovered at. I want to look around, and if I want something, I'll buy it. If someone comes to hover then I'm less likely to buy something because I feel rushed.

18. Sorting our garbage. Here in Korea, there are four garbages. There's the food trash (which you keep in the freezer so it doesn't stink up your house, something else that I don't like. I'm not a fan of having a bag of trash in my freezer), the plastic recycling, the paper recycling, and the combustible waste, which basically amounts to used tissues and popsicle sticks. I mean, I'm sure it's better for the environment and all that, but I'm a wasteful American and I like it that way. That's all I'm saying.

Anyway, that's about all I can think of at the moment. Don't get me wrong, we've both loved our year here, there are just things that we won't miss. That being said, I'll make an end. We probably won't post again before we head home, but I at least (and I'm the one who writes these days) plan to keep this blog alive after Korea. So, if you want to stay updated on our adventures and everything else, stay tuned! This is Captain Danger out.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In Which We Meet Some Awesome Puppies

So, here's the promised post that I mentioned in my last one. This last Saturday we were planning on riding a scooter around some coast roads, but that didn't work out and we're going to do it next week. So, we ended up going and hiking on Olle Trail 20, where we did the first half a couple months ago. It was pretty good. Turns out that we stopped hiking before right before we got to the really good part. There were a bunch of windmills on this one, and also a lot of coast. There were also some awesome puppies that came out and played with us. Nancy liked those guys a lot. Here are the pictures.

Puppies! We wish we could buy one of these guys and take it home with us, but it would
get too big and need too much attention. 

Cool windmill.

Nancy with the cool windmill. The sun was pretty bright.

Another puppy!

Weoljeong Beach. It was a really nice-looking beach, but we didn't swim there.

So, it was a nice hike. We finished off by going swimming at Gimnyeong Beach, which was great. It's one of the beaches that was on our list. I think we've gone to like all but two of them now, which is pretty good. I'm going to miss the beach and the ocean. Anyway, that's all for this post. Be watching for another one soon. It's going to be a long one, but like I said, it'll be awesome. This is Captain Danger out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In Which I Accomplish Something

So, maybe this should go on my other blog, but hardly anyone reads that one, and I want people to know that I'm crazy proud of myself. I'm feeling pretty awesome, I'm not going to lie. Here's why: I have officially finished the first draft of my fantasy novel! Now that you know that this post isn't about a baby or anything, the majority of you can close the tab. Now, for the rest of you, I have to say, it's an accomplishment, even if it is a nerdy one.

I've been working on this novel since October, or maybe even earlier than that. I'm calling it Keepers of the Pit for the time being, and I think it's a pretty good story. I think my tag-line for it will be "Alternate-world urban fantasy with warrior monks and a team of super heroes." The plot is probably really predictable right now, and is also probably riddled with holes and with flat characters who make stupid decisions, but for the last little while I've just been trying to pound through it and get to the end, resolving to go back and fix all of the problems once I'm done, and now I'm done, so I can go back and fix the problems!

So, I guess that's about all I have to say for this one. I just let this momentous achievement go by without announcing it to the Internets. If anyone would like to read it and let me know what they think, just let me know and I'll share the Google Document with you.

Anyway, we did something last weekend, and we even took pictures, but I haven't gotten around to blogging about it yet. Here's a picture for a teaser:

So, I'll get to that soon. Also, my blog post on what I will and won't miss about Korea should be coming up in the next week or so, because we're leaving in TEN DAYS! You won't want to miss that post, trust me, it's going to be long, but it will be awesome.

That's all for the moment. This is Captain Danger out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In Which We Are Disappointed

So, we were disappointed in a couple respects this weekend. We had some pretty big plans. We were going to go to the beach one day, and go to Donaekko on another day, since we had a three day weekend this week. However, we were stymied on the Donaekko angle, as it needs to be really hot to go there, and both days on the weekend turned out being pretty cool. We did go to the beach on one of the days, but it was cloudy and cold. I went swimming anyway, just because if I'm going to the beach, I'm going to swim, dangit!

Our alternative to going to Donaekko was going to be hiking the Yeongsil trail on Hallasan. However, that ended up being a no-go, too, because when I looked out the window in the morning it was way too cloudy. I couldn't see the mountain at all, and even though the Yeongsil trail doesn't go all the way to the top, we didn't want a repeat of the last time we hiked the mountain. Sure, it was cool, but we saw the mountain in the fog, now we want to see the view.

So, we looked for things to do, and we ended up landing on a place called Soesoggak. It's a really pretty estuary, and you can rent boats and paddle up and down it, which we thought sounded pretty cool. So, we jumped on a bus and headed down there. It did turn out to be quite pretty, but we were a little disappointed by the fact that all of the boats were sold out. We looked around and took some pictures anyway. Here they are.

Bike boats. Kind of cool.

In this one you can see some of the clear canoes they had there. We would have been all over that.

That shirt is one of my newest acquisitions. This is definitely the most excited I've ever been about clothes.

Apparently there would normally be a really good view of Hallasan from here, but it was crazy hazy, justifying our choice not to go up the mountain. 

Heading back to the bus stop.

So, that was that. And, the annoying thing is that it looks like the weather's going to be delivering more of the same for the next two Saturdays, which will be our last two Saturdays. I kind of feel disappointed about that, but we probably should have gotten around to some of these things sooner. We might rent a scooter this Saturday and drive some of the coast roads.

In other news, we have an apartment lined up for when we move to Phoenix, and it's going to be awesome! At least, if the floor plan and the pictures on the complex's website are any indication. Just the size alone is pretty awesome for me. 930 square feet! So huge! Anyway, that's about all I've got to say for this post. This is Captain Danger out.

Monday, June 2, 2014

In Which It is Very Hazy

So, I think this one will be pretty short on the writing. We went out and hit another Olle trail on Saturday. This was number 21, and I liked it. I've had my eye on it for a while, really, but we haven't been able to get out and do it until now. It was cool. Most of it was on the coast, and the hill had a great view out at Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) and Udo. We also went to Hado Beach, which is another one of the beaches on our list. Now there's only two or three on there that we haven't been to. We also saw another pony and an awesome dog. The main drawback of this trail was that there were NO CONVENIENCE STORES. For those who have never been to Korea, or Asia in general, know that this is very unusual. Like, crazy unusual. I have been to few places where there hasn't been at least one convenience store from one of the three major chains (CU, GS25, and 7-11). Here, there was nothing, and we didn't go very prepared. We finally found a tiny mart that was attached to a restaurant that only sold seafood ramen (no thanks) and so we were able to buy some snacks, but that was the trying part of this trail. Also, it was really hazy out. You can see it in the pictures. You couldn't see the mountain at all, though, which is too bad, because there probably would have been some awesome views. Anyway, overall I liked it. Here are some pictures.

Squid hanging up so it can become dried squid.

Nancy along the road. That's Sunrise Peak in the background.

Looking across the water at Udo.

The hill we climbed. It's called Jimi Oreum. I thought that as kind of a funny name, but whatever.

Taking a rest halfway up the hill.

Nancy pointing at Udo.

Looking back at Jimi Oreum.



This dog was really nice.

Then there was this wall. Don't know what it came from, but it was pretty cool.

Then I climbed the wall.

I was going to climb up to the second level, too, but I didn't want to have to worry about getting down.
Well, that's about all I have to say about that. Can anyone believe that we have less than a month left? Crazy! We'll try to keep you posted on things that happen here as our time in Korea draws to a close. This is Captain Danger out.