Thursday, February 3, 2011
This list has no certain order. How could it? Every moment on this list was once in a lifetime.
I know it's cheating a bit to put a entire city on this list but for Istanbul I will make a exception. It is my favorite city on the planet, heavy with history, indie culture and amazing food. I only spent three full days in the city and I hope to return as soon as possible. Istanbul was the center of the western world for centuries and the mix of roman and ottoman culture has created one prefect world city. The cistern was a personal favorite and managed to stand out in a already brilliant city.
9-1:30 AM at Senso-ji Temple
Stephany and I took the last jam packed subway train back to our Hostel at 1:30 AM after a fast paced yakatori meal. We decided to swing by the Temple before heading back. The temple is usually packed with city dwellers and tourists alike. Yet when Stephany and I walked through the Temple grounds, we had everything to ourselves. The massive straw shoes, the lanterns and the five story pagoda was our playground. We ran around, snapped silly pictures and fulled our childhood dream of sisters traveling to far off Japan.
Ok, I lied. Just one more city on this list of what was meant to be experiences. In my defense Amsterdam was like more a experience than a city for me. I had a ten hour layover in the city after my week in Turkey. Like everyone else on the planet, I fell in love within a moment in Amsterdam. Everyone is young, beautiful and riding bicycles. The city is like my beloved Portland plus the history I find so intoxicating. In the measly eight hours I had in the city I managed to to take a boat tour, eat about 16 meals and fulfill my dream of seeing some dutch master paintings at the Rijksmuseam. If Amsterdam was this exasperating for eight hours just imagine after I move there to work in the Rijkarchive! In my wildest dreams perhaps....
I have done two different DMZ tours in Korea and they both were interesting and informative. Yet one moment stands apart. It was my third weekend in Korea and I took a tour to the northeast province. This was the same trip as the bungee jump of infamy. One night a group of us hiked up a local hill from our middle-of-nowhere home-stay. The hill used to be a genuine mountain before it got shelled into shambles during the war. After climbing to the top of the hill I turned a corner behind a monument and their it was, the DMZ. I saw before and I've seen it seen it since but never like this. It streaches as far as the eye can see in earthier direction. I had gone ahead of the group so I was alone amongst the boundary of steel fencing and spotlights. It was a shocking awaking that this country I was going to call my new home was at war.
6-Dancing at the Temple of Heaven
As self respecting guide book will tell you, the main attraction of the temple of heaven is not the multi-hued round temple itself but the park surrounding it. This is where the residents of Beijing come to exercise, sing karaoke, fly kites and prance will ribbons. Sometime after entering the park and before posing for more pictures (blondes do have more fun in China), I saw a group of older Chinese women line dancing for their Saturday morning workout. I knew if I didn't join it I would regret it later on. The women loved it and were more than patient for showing me the moves. I never thought I would go to China. I grew up thinking of China as the Far East, somewhere as unattainable as the Moon. Yet, here I was dancing the int Temple of Heaven. It made me giddy with happiness.
5-Street Parties and Festivals In Fukuoka
Last year I went for a wildly expensive weekend in Fukuoka Japan. I knew nothing about the southern most island other than I had two days off work and we could take a three hour ferry. We arrived on a Saturday night and I wanted to check out a district known for its night life and street food. I knew instantly that I was somewhere very different the moment I stepped off the subway. Advertisements for Host Bars lit up the sky in neon hues and everywhere the people where dressed in innovated interesting fashions. It was a wonderful change after Barbieland aka Daegu. Street food was everywhere and ranged from the classic meat on a stick to whole lobsters. The place entranced me and I joined the festivities, buying hot cups of sake from local vendors. Still moment alone would have deserved a spot on my list but I was even more lucky. We went during a small matsuri so dancers and musicians joined the festivities with the cross-dressers and street vendors. It was a perfect first trip out of Korea.
Sorry about the rush! I leave in a few hours for Thailand!
4- Riding my bike around Xian City Wall
In the Chinese city of Xian (the city of the terracotta soldiers) there was an amazing old city wall surrounding the city. My friends and I rented bikes and got to a wonderful next perspective of the city.
3-Getting caught in a rain storm in a bamboo forest in Japan.
2- The Great Wall!
1- Balloon ride over Kapidokia
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Want some delicious mushroom squid noodles delivered to your house? Do you only have 4,000 won? Well in Korea this is no problem as acres of delivery restaurants, service the needs of the hungry apartment bound masses. It took me a solid year of trial and error to figure out how to order from the monthly delivery books dropped off at my house. The food comes in less then thirty minutes and delivery is free. I will miss the moped man delivering everything from Pizza, Korean, McDonalds to Sushi.
9-Korean Hiking Culture
A middle aged man who won't give you anything but a massive wad of phlegm is transformed once you reach the top of any of Daegus local peaks. All of a sudden the older generation of Koreans becomes your best friend. There hasn't been a single time when I have hiked to the top of a mountain and not been greeted by a few free snacks or in one case, a round of drinks. The greatest kindness I have encountered was when my friends and I hiked Apsan Mountain the day after Christmas. It was freezing cold and my friend had forgotten her gloves. A older gentleman (who raced passed us as every Korean is in way better hiking shape than I) offered her a extra pair that he had brought in his bag. I just wish the kindness on the mountain could be continued on the subway.
8-Food Glorious Food
At first glance Korean food looks intimating and I personally was disappointed that it wasn't identical to Japanese. However, after a few months I was hooked. My favorite part of Korean cuisine is the side dishes. They are different at every restaurant and during every season. The staples include spinach, acorn jelly, long sliver fish, tiny fish, yellow pickled radish, onion salad, sweet potato and of course, kimchi. I can't believe I'm staying this but, I am going to miss kimchi. The salty acidic cabbage has become a staple of my diet and a meal hasn't begun without it. When I went home over Thanksgiving, I was disappointed by the fact that my meal was all served on one plate. I guess I just have to move to Spain next and day eat tapas all day!
7.5- Red Bean Bread Fish
Warm, sweet, yummy and three for a dollar. Need I say more? I just wish these waffley sweets were cooked up year round.
Super cheap and sold on every street corner, I will miss Korean fruit Adjummas. Street fruit is only sold in season so its always fresh and delicious. A big bag of kumquats for 3,000 won? I'm in heaven.
7-Cheap and Easy Transportation.
Its not interesting to write about but I never imagined it would be this easy to get around without a car.
Hot pants and high heels, floor length real fur coats, men's bedazzled jeans and of course couple wear. Daegu fashion is a strange combination of conservative and girly. You rarely see colors brighter than baby pink and many women's wardrobes could easily be shared with Barbie. While I never hopped completely on the bandwagon if have found myself wearing more leggings, (even Jeggings God help me) skirts and Velcro strap fake converse. It's exhausting to see so many beautiful people everywhere and at home I will be relieved to stop being the dumpyist 20-something downtown.
5-K-Pop and K-dramas
The flashy and strangely addictive Korean pop dance beats blast out of every available store orifice at all hours of the day and night. It's annoying but sinks quickly into your brain. Similar to kimchi, I found myself craving K-pop and kept a secret stash on my computer. K-dramas are a much larger time commitment and embarrassingly much more addictive. I watched two complete dramas series on mysoju.com and only my hapkido class and work kept me from watching more. Its hard to ignore the successful dramas, “Secret Garden” being the most recent. My students debated them in class, my friends knew the actors real love dramas and the cab drivers watched the series finale on their in-cab-tv's.
It might be exhausting and I am pretty sure I took years off my voice box but I will fondly miss teaching. It's a career that plays to my vanities. Everyone listen to me, look at me and laugh at me. I am here for their entertainment. Oh, and to teach I guess although the role of the foreigner teacher is half of each. The kids call my name as I walk through the hallway and I get a rush from actually helping them understand. I will be pursuing a masters in archival science but I hope to integrate it with public education in some way. I enjoy the performance aspect of education far too much to never continue.
From leaving my computer and wallet out in the open in a coffee shop to the keypad entry on my apartment I have never felt safer than I do in Korea. Nobody rips you off and bartering is unheard of. I walk home alone at 4:30 AM at a regular basis and I have never once felt threatened. I think one of the most difficult parts of returning home will be giving up freedom which only comes with feeling secure.
When you leave your friends and family to live in a foreign country you start from page one. The friends I have been blessed to make in this chapter of my life have become some of my closest friends. We work together, eat together and become each others new family. More than simply friends, I will miss my new family and hope to visit everyone again no matter what corner of the globe we call home.