Monday, June 24, 2013

Quick Synopsis of the 10k

We got there and EVERYONE was wearing blue. Took us a while to figure out that that was the shirt we got for running the race.

There were men everywhere. Granted, this was a race in honor of veterans. But when we all got piled together by the start line, it was slightly overwhelming.

We got our picture taken by some Korean military guys because, we're, well, white.

Some famous girls (don't know who) led everyone in a giant group stretch...that was cool.

It was realllllly hot out! And only 9 am. I think I sweat through my entire shirt (TMI?)

I got sprayed with Ginseng to help my circulation. That was surprising as he came up from behind and got me! Turns out he was super adorable though.

I got a medal, banana, shirt, hat, towel thingy, 2 muffin things, and an energy drink for finishing.

I ran the whole thing (which I wasn't expecting to be able to do since the most I had run before the day was 5k) aaaaand I ran it in (officially) 1:04:31. CONGRATS TO ME. I'm so proud. Honestly didn't think I was capable of that.

We ran along the Han river. That was cool.

Overall it was a good time. I'm proud of my time. And I'm glad I ran a 10k in Korea. Next run will be a 5k color run in September! Hooray!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Korean Baseball. Oi.

Ok....I feel that I need to preface this particular post with a little background of my baseball game experiences. I have never been to a MLB game before. Before you get too shocked, I grew up in Cali (SLO) which has no major league team. I saw their "little guys" play...AAA I believe. Maybe double. If that's a thing. Then I moved to Washington. Spokane, Washington. So never was like Oh em ge Mariners. Saw the Spokane Indians play a few times though. Other than that, I've seen more of my sister's softball games than one person should ever have to watch in a lifetime (don't worry Jess, I loved going and sitting in the sun and eating delicious food...and watching you play lol) and have caught many a Mariners game on the tele.

That being said, Korean baseball is a hoot and a half. I attended a game about a month ago, but just sat in the outfield in the sun with some friends and drank some beer and enjoyed the game from afar. It was a good time. THIS time was a much different experience.

Our doctor at the clinic (Dr. Hamm...or is it Haam...Idk the Korean way) bought tickets for 5 of us coworkers to go to the game and sit in the cheering section. Not only did he buy our ticket, but he arranged for us to get picked up after school by 2 of his friends, and then bought us cool baseball toys like blow up fingers, and loud stick clappers. In return, we bought the beer and chips. Oh they also bought us sandwiches. What the heck, can you say hospitality?

Now I'm not gunna lie, I don't even really know what happened in the game. When you sit in the 100's sections, you are cheering the whole entire time. When your team is up at bat, you do not sit down. And you do not stop yelling. You're dancing, you're waving your sticks around, you're mumbling words that sound like what it is everyone else is saying (unless someone translates for you...which I got a few times so sometimes I knew what I was saying). It was also helpful that many of their cheers go to songs I already know, like an ABBA song, and some hip hop, and other good things. So if all else fails, I can just mumble the tune and it sounds the same as what everyone else is saying. All this being said, it was a super good time.

In Korea, they have cheerleaders at baseball. They dance sometimes (one time to Gentlemen...and if you don't know, GOOGLE IT.....Gangnam Style is so last season, Gentleman is where it's at now) and they even had a wardrobe change. They got more scandalous as the night went on, which is saying a lot for Korea, the country that has a ban on how short your shorts and skirts can be in public (don't know if that's in effect yet or if it will ever be). There is also a fantastic man who wears gogo boots and has a loud whistle that keeps the fans cheering the ENTIRE TIME. He was a hoot and a half to watch him shake his booty in front of hundreds of people. No shame.

Also, at one point, we put plastic bags on our heads. Orange ones. They passed out enough for the entire crowd. so you put some air in it,and tie it on your head via your ears. Or the girls can make an adorable bow. I didn't want a bow. I wanted an awesome puff ball.

The most exciting part of the night was when some old Korean guy let me wave the flag around. First he had Mandy and Ellen do it, but they were not the best flag wavers in the world. They weren't enthused enough. I was more than enthused so I was wavin that flag like there was no tomorrow. Hittin the people in front of me. Hittin the people next to me. Wackin people in their arms and faces. I didn't care. It was awesome. Then the man took my picture and took his flag. Sad.

Overall, we won the game by like 8...had a good time, and experienced a new part of Korean culture that I would love to experience again, because honestly, how much more exciting can a baseball game get????

Cheerleaders in outfit one. 

The crew who brought us. 

Giant hand clappers and a bag on my head. That's my coworker Sara. 
 Man rockin the gogos and shakin it for probably lots of dollas.  

Sea of orange bag heads. 

My awesome flagness. 

Finally, here is the video of the cheerleaders doing you know why the game is not nearly as exciting as the cheering that is going on. Before you click this, please go back up and watch PSY do it first so you get a full understanding of it's importance. 

Adventure Weekend!

Last weekend I went on an epic adventure. Here is what I did!

First we went bungee jumping!!!!!! 63 meters. Supposedly the tallest in Korea. It was scarrrrrry. I was expecting a bridge but that's not what happened. There were these crane like things and they carried us to the top. As I rode to the top with the instructor guy, in his actually impressive amount of English, he told me what to expect. He said, "We get to the top. I open the door. You step outside to end of platform. I will say look up. You look up. I will say arms out. You put your arms out. I will say 1, 2, 3 then you jump. You do like dive. Ok?" Me..."oooook....." Him "It's very fun" Me "I'm scared." Him "It's very fun." haha we didn't get very far there. Then we had some casual conversation...he lives in the town over there, and pointed. He has jumped hundreds of times. He tells me when I am waiting to get lowered I should bend in half and hug my legs. (Side note, you should know I was sitting down on a stool so I couldn't really see the height as we went up).

We got to the top. He said, "are you ready?" I said "uhhhh I guess." He opens the door. I can now see how far up we are and I whimper. He says step out. I take baby step. He says, "You need to step out further. One more step to be on edge." I say ok and timidly step out. I can't look down cuz if I do, there's no way this is happening. Although even looking out around me is super scary because I can still see how high up I am! Then he says "Look up!" (these people who worked here were very demanding..."STAND HERE" "WAIT THERE" we were like ok ok...but they were fun guys so it wasn't in a mean way) So I looked up. THen he said "Arms out" So I put my arms out. Then he said "1, 2, 3 jump" So I dive offffff the platform into the nothingness. I had the slightest moment of hesitation then instantly decided if I hesitated, I would never be able to do it, so off I went. The jump itself was fantastic. The build up was horrifying. But by far the worst part was after the bounce. It jostles you around and you body is all twisty and bendy it ways it shouldn't be. Not to mention you start spinning on that bungee AND you're hanging upside down. So no part of that is pleasing in the slightest. Everyone cheers like yay you did it! Then they lower you down. What a rush! Would I do it again? Honestly probably not by the ankle again just because it made me extremely nauseous and gave me an instant head ache. Would I do it by the waist? Absolutely because then you just kinda fly there afterwards, no pain to be had. Course no pain, no gain.

Next was off to the zip line. Originally I had paid to do it. Then when I saw that the course was like..20 feet off the ground and over a parking lot, I decided to sit this one out and get my money back (I've done zip lining before in a more awesome (in my opinion) location and setting). Watched as people zipped around.

Everyone got back and it was time for water rafting. I haven't been water rafting since like, loooong ago in my Cali days, almost too young to remember besides the fact that we almost died because we missed the "house the size of a rock" the guide told us we'd see and instead almost went over a huge waterfall. Not the case this time, we had a guide in our boat. Good thing because we got stuck at least 5 times and he had to pull us out. It was a fun experience. One part, we got to get out and swim. Sara and I pulled our instructor in the water because he kept trying to dunk us under from the safety of his boat. I decided no way jose and he was a victim of our wrath. Another point in the river, we stopped, turned a raft upside down on some boulders in them middle of the river, and used it as our personal spring board. That was cool. Last, we did some good old fashioned water boarding. Yes that's the torture method. We got off where there was some freezing cold spring water running down a little water fall. He grabbed our head and dunked us under. Don't was quite refreshing and enjoyable, and no, I didn't feel like I was going to die.

It was a day full of fun and adventure!

Day 2 was river trekking day! First we hiked up a steep steep hill for half an hour and sweated our booties off. Then we hiked down into the valley on the other side. Once we got there, we found the river! From that point on, we hiked along the river! Sometimes in the river, sometimes crossing the river, sometimes along the river. It was an overall fantastic day because every second of it reminded me of the good ole PNW and summers there. The hiking, the river, the cliff jumping, and the natural water slides. Not to mention the nature itself was very similar to PNW. But yes, we found a few boulders to jump off. Unfortunately I kicked a giant one when I was coming back up from my jump and I now have a huge bruise on my leg. It's ok though, bruises are fun! This trek took about 5 hours. 5 hours of outdoor awesomeness. We also found a couple natural water slides (although these ones have nothing on the ones up by priest lake in Idaho).

Good good times, new friends, and a weekend of greatly needed outdoor adventure in the sun.

Oh I forgot to tell you about my sunburns. Day one, I decided I didn't need sunscreen (also come to find out my sunscreen wasn't even water proof). So my arms, hands, and feet were burnt to a crisp. Thanks to my 2 lovely new roommates and their aloe, next day I was fine. Next day I decided to sunscreen it up. However I forgot about my upper back. I think I thought my backpack was covering it. Found out that night, that was not the case. Had a super stinger sunburn. Whoops. Its far no peeling and a super nice tan. At least 3 Koreans on Monday commented on my skin (remember they don't like tanness).

Here are some pictures:

This is how the weekend always starts...curled up on a bus. 

The rafting team. 

Us and our rafting leader. 

The boat turned diving board. 

Jumping boulder. 

Taking a swimming break. 

The bungeeeeeee. 

Gorgeous river to trek on!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Koreans In Summertime

Let me start off by saying, that last September October, I found that Koreans hated the sun. At the beach, they were wearing long sleeves and hats and carry umbrellas everywhere like it's raining.

Today was a different story, although also a different kind of Korean person.

We heard about the Hamilton Hotel pool that's on the roof and decided it was on our bucket list to go. We also heard the pool opens at 10 and closes at 8 on weekends and holidays. Then we heard what the weather was going to be like today. We decided to go.

Before going, on Wednesday Sara and I did a little research to see what we might want to expect. All the internet blogs and articles talked about males asserting their social dominance, how to talk to Korean girls, and other activities that happen at the pool.

Let it be known that all those things were true.

First we got there at 1020, and the line to get in was around the corner to the elevator. We waited a good 40 minutes just to get into the pool, and when we did, there was no where to sit really, except on the edge of the pool, which was fine. That's where we sat all day. We people watched the crap out of this situation. There is drinking, and bbqing (American style) and the craziest shenanigans you can possibly imagine.

As I'm thinking about how to explain this to you all, I'm finding it very difficult to put into words the things I saw today, so here are my attempts at the important things:

1. House music from noon on.
2. Men in speedos EVERYWHERE whether they should be wearing them or not.
3. Korean girls in high heals
4. People mingling.
5. Drunk (or not) Koreans dancing like they're in a club of house music, just wearing significantly less clothes (now before you get a raunchy picture in your head, just imagine someone standing there, bobbing their head and waving their hands in the air sometimes).
6. People packed from wall to wall.
7. The "social dominance via floaty toy" thing was real. The pool has one trampoline floaty toy that many people were often sitting in. Till other people came and dumped you out. Then it was a battle for which male (white or korean) could stay on or in the floaty toy. Eventually they let other people back on, but it was a constant game and that toy was more often than not, FULL of men, in very close proximity to one another, in speedos.
8. On that same note, I met a nice girl who borrowed my sunscreen in exchange for some wine that experienced the floaty toy thing. A kind old man in a speedo (Korean) decided to join the fun. She told me of the sights and feels of that experience and that she never wanted to experience it again. I stayed away from that bad boy (the toy, not the old man).
9. There was literally oil floating on top the pool because of the amount of lubrication these people were using to become tan. Men were literally oiling each other up non stop the whole time.
10. Being pale in Korea is cool. Today I learned that that really only applies to your face. Therefore, you look at these bodies of both males and females, skin dark as dark can be, face, whiter than a freaking ghost (granted this is a bit of an exaggeration, but I kid you not, their faces were white with make and women...and their bodies super duper dark). That was almost the most shocking thing I saw all day.
11. The burger we ate for lunch was delicious!
12. Korean girls reapply their make up as soon as they get out of the water (if they ever even really get in).
13. I karate chopped a guys hand for trying to pull Sara into the pool. I hit him much harder than I thought and it still hurts right now, 5 hours later...but it worked!

Some things I learned for next time (and there will be a next time because now we KNOW what we need and what to expect and it'll make it all the better):
1. We will pay the extra money for a lounge chair, to have our own space.
2. We will bring our own alcohol (not allowed, but everyone did it).
3. We will bring more friends. We had quite a lot of fun with only 3 of us, but if we had more people to talk to, it would have been pretty cool.
4. We will get to the pool (to stand in line) at 930 so that we can get a chair, but a chair in an area we want.
5. We will bring some sort of pool toy, be it a beach ball (there were 3, they all went over the edge into the bustling streets of Itaewon, never to be seen again) or a frizbee, or a kickboard or SOMETHING.
6. We will go on a Saturday when it's perfectly okey dokey to be hung over the next morning (sorry mom, the truth hurts).

Here's the pictures that can hopefully provide you with a little insight as to what I witnessed today.
Oh Korean grammar. Hehe. 

The lounge chairs were all full, and people were sitting like us around the entire pool. 

The social dominance floaty toy. 

This guy was wasted, and was trying to dance on this thing...till he fell off with no one's help but his own. 

The first male to dominate the floaty toy. Also, take note of the Korean men wearing speedos lathering themselves up and just standing there. And they weren't even the worst. I wish I took a picture of these other two wearing a pink, truly banana. hammok. I kid you not the things I saw...and his pal, wearing powder blue tiny shorts. Powder blue...when wet...with a light material. I'll leave the rest to your imagination but I don't even think your imagination can do it justice. 

These guys stood around for a looooong time before lying down for a loooooong time then leaving. Don't worry,  their space was quickly taken over. 

On another more awesome note, my family booked their flight to Korea today!!!! They'll be here in September (my mother still hasn't given me the specific dates and times yet) and we're gunna do so many awesome things! YAY YAY YAY!

Oh and I have to work tomorrow, Friday. We had a random Thursday off. Hence the reason for this adventure in the first place.

Over and out!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Day I Went to the DMZ

My darling friend, Brigitte, and I decided to go on a day trip to two of the DMZ areas. We went with WinK (a travel group for people in Korea, mostly foreigners..which I have been on 2 previous trips with). I have heard from many people that the USO trip is the way to go because you see more or do more or something. No one ever actually gives a reason, they just say "Oh I heard you should go through USO." That combined with the average feedback of people who have been to the DMZ being "It was pretty cool I guess" made my expectations not that high. Really, I thought I should just go because I'm here and that's something foreigners could do. Therefore, I signed up, made Brig go with me, and began yet another weekend morning at 5 something in the morning to go on an adventure.

We rode the subway, rode the bus (only about 40 minutes) and arrived at the first destination. We saw an old bullet shot train from the war. We saw the peace bridge. And some colorful hope ribbons.
Train with bullet holes all up in it.

Peace Bridge

Peace ribbons...surrounded by barbed wire. 

Same area, different place, we went to the tunnel after first watching an informative video about North Korea. Which reminds me! Our WinK leader filled the first 40 minute bus ride with a ton of interesting information about the history of North and South Korea and their interactions. I learned quite a lot. And it was interesting to hear a Koreans opinion about what was recently "going on" with North Korea. His thoughts on the matter were that in Korean news, they get updates on the happenings of North Korea every day. Whereas the US hears nothing and then CNN blows stuff out of the war. Good ole whats-his-face always using the words "imminent war" whenever he can to freak the living daylights out of Americans. I also learned how strong of a hold Japan had on Korea and I learned about the Chinese involvement. It was pretty cool. I feel like I got Korean history 101 in a short 40 minute bus ride.

Anyways. Then we went into the tunnel. We had to wear helmets. First we walked down a fairly steep incline for about 10 minutes. Then we got to the real tunnel that the N. Koreans had built to try and attack Seoul. 4 have been found, we explored 2 of them. We walked down it a ways. At the end, there was a big metal door. Then we turned around and walked back. The incline back up was a bit steep and my calves are sore today to say the least. The cool thing about these tunnels that I learned is that their built from low to high, lowest in the North and highest in the South so that the flow of the water would be in the opposite direction. Fascinating right? They definitely thought ahead on that so they wouldn't end up with a huge puddle when the got to Seoul. The interesting thing that I kept imagining was how they would get so many soldiers through that tunnel. If you want to have an attack on someone, another country, for example, you're gunna need a lot of soldiers. However we were walking in a single file line, all hunched over so as not to hit our heads (even though we still did, good thing for those helmets!) and when people passed us going the other direction, we had to slow down and slide by one another. Imagine hundreds of soldiers trying to get through these tunnels...quite curious if you ask me.

Then we went to an observation tower. That was cool. We got to take pictures with the soldiers (South Korean, that is) and look through the telescopes. This is the part I totally nerded out on. I was like SO stoked to see North Korea. I actually saw a village with people walking through it (like 2 people) and 1 person on a bike. Saw some North Korean towers. I was soooo stoked. And saw the area where South Koreans go to work. I forget what that place is called. But I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about. They had a yellow line painted on the floor and you couldn't take pictures beyond it for the private-ness of the military things or whatever. So this is the best picture I got of N. Korea:
This is from the first observation deck. Those mountains are in North Korea. 

This is from the second observation deck, and those mountains are also in North Korea. 
Our new bestie!

Then we were off for some lunch. Turns out the place we were having lunch is the same place I'll be going rafting and bungee jumping next weekend. Cool!

After lunch we headed to the second area. It was another tunnel. This time with stairs and this time we could take pictures of the helmets! We still weren't supposed to take pictures inside, however I know a few people got some pics so maybe you'll get to see that on FB or something later.

After that we went to this other observation deck and then ended the day with some White Horse Hill Battle monuments. White Horse Hill was when a lot (can't remember how many) bombs were dropped on a mountain and it took the top layer of the earth off (about a meter deep) leaving white sand in the shape of a horse. Hence it's name. The significance of this hill is that to the south of it is really rich soil for growing rice. We all know how the people in N. Korea are kinda starving so this was a very important piece of land for them, and before all the wars started and such, it used to be theirs. S. Korea won it, however, by 3 men running into N. Korean barracks with hand granades, thus ending the sitch. They did this because both N. Korean and S. Korean troops ran out of amo and were now using hand to hand combat. Those 3 men are the heros of this battle and there is a sculpture made of them with the left over bullet shells from the battle. COOL!
 After this we were all exhausted and ready to go home, so home we did go.

Two things I forgot. We also visited the last train station before the train goes to N. Korea:

AND every video we watched (there were 3 I think) was all about how they want North Korea and South Korea to be one nation. Their goal is to tie things together again. How presh. Oh, and they're like all about the wildlife. Which I think is kinda funny. AND something that Brigitte pointed out is that it's very strange that some of the active military people act as tour guides. Imagine getting your assignment and it says "You're going to the pass out helmets to visitors." Bummer. Or awesome. I also learned that the Korean military make 120,000 won a month for being in the military. People, that's like 120 bucks. Crazy. To the right is the military guy who was our tour guide and told us how much he makes.

Anyways I think that's about all the information I have for you on the DMZ. Met a couple new people. This lady carried her dog in a child satchel for much of the trip because it had life threatening surgery (she talked about it with EVERYONE). And I learned a lot and was super pumped about the things I did and got to see. YAY adventure weekends! Stay tuned for 2 weeks from now for my post bungee/river rafting/river trekking/zip lining adventure!

This tank was cool. 

Look I'm at the DMZ!