Finding our Chi


Kitty and Santa set off for a day in Mudeungsan Provincial Park on Saturday. Kitty routed out how to get there by bus and boom. An hour of travel and we made it happen.

Waiting at the bus stop with a pretty hefty crowd Kitty was attacked by a bumblebee the size of a cheeseburger. A little fact about Kitty is she absolutely is terrified of the birds and the bees (literally speaking) so when that flying whopper came at her face like a bat out of hell she did what came naturally. Santa was scared and crying from laughing so hard as she watched Kitty do an interpretive dance involving a lot of screeching  ducking, swinging, swatting and bouncing. After Kitty won the battle with the bee we continued waiting for our bus, only now we had a crowd of on lookers.

We finally made it to the park, or maybe this large hill is a mountain? YEP. Forgot to look into that one, we made it to the mountain for what we thought was going to be a leisurely stroll. As if Kitty and Santa don’t already under dress in gear we showed up at the base of this massive mountain in casual work out clothes and purses. So the staring continued and we proceeded to stand out. We are sort of getting use to it by now.

Definitely need to take some pointers from this guy next time. Prepared for all types of weather! (mind you, it was 82 degrees)

I’m not going to lie, this freaked us out. Especially with no translation of the sign. We determined it meant there were dragon snakes hiding in the rocks that were either going to A.eat Bambi’s dad in front of us or B. swallow us whole. After talking it out we decided if one of us was attacked by the dragon the other person should sacrifice themselves as dessert because finding help with no cell phones or in korean was going to be next to impossible. Kitty and Santa are both very happy we survived.

After hiking up, up and away we finally came to the temples. How amazing. This temple, Jeungsimsa Buddhist Temple, was built during the Silla Dynasty….wait for it….in 57 BC. (ya know, BEFORE CHRIST). Well, I think Kitty and Santa were both in absolute awe that we were able to not only see these temples but politely take our shoes off, offer a prayer and snap a few pictures. Awesomeness.

our first Buddha encounter

incredible views

It was incredible to see people still using these prayer rooms as we walked around

Prayers.

Drinking from the fountain of youth.

“The mountain of the Gods”

After Kitty and Santa journeyed through the spiritual realm of Buddha we were motivated to keep going. So UP the mountain we went! Along the way we were greeted by every child under the age of 11 and every old man over the age of 70. Yes, even the 70 year olds were hiking up, up and away. Shouts of “HELLO! HOW YOU!!!”  came bellowing from friends all around us. It took Kitty and Santa a little off guard as we are so use to blank stares. Eager to respond Santa would shout back “KAMSAMNIDA” in Korean…Kitty later asked Santa why she was saying that to everyone. Santa replied that she was just being friendly. Then Kitty informed Santa she wasn’t saying HELLO she was screaming THANK YOU! ha!

Kitty also noticed that all of the old people smelled like booze and seemed to be staggering at high elevations. We remembered that someone told us about this. Some type of cultural thing where old people drink and hike all day. We should look into those facts but it was strangely interesting to see.

Looking at our city from above the clouds 🙂

Kitty and Santa decided to go off the paved path and onto a trail to seek out another temple. It was a vertical incline but the sign read 1 KM and we thought that shouldn’t be too bad so up we went. Along the way we didnt see many people but we did run into an old woman. She didn’t speak any English but she kept looking straight up and wiping her head as if to sweat – we were too stupid to figure out the warning.

 Kitty, Santa and that old man in the blue hiked and hiked and hiked. We saw a sign that said we had only 1.9 KM left. WHAT?! Well, we already went so far so we had to keep going. The 3 amigos basically walked up those bolders stairs with dragons hiding in them for a good hour before we got worried. We decided that even if we made it to the top theres no way we would have any energy to make it back.  Unlike our friend old blue, we forgot our gear so pitching a tent and having a 5 course meal wasn’t an option for us. So down down down we went.

We thought this would be easier but it actually ended up to be the worst park. We had JELLO-LEG. This is when your legs begin to shake compulsively and move with no control. We were flying down the mountain, crashing into trees was our only hope to slow our speed. It was pretty hysterical and looking back probably a little dangerous. BUT we made it out alive to tell our story.

At the end of the day Santa found a park bench and we took it all in…yes, yes, we live in Asia.

“NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST.” -J.R.R. TOLKEIN

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Lets get the gear!!

If you don’t know the phrase “get the gear” we invite you to watch this short video before enjoying the rest of this post:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3SFqV0hMyo

Hiking is not just something you just do here in Korea. Its a lifestyle, a wardrobe, its the who’s who of the backwoods. We noticed by our house that there are a few pricey hiking stores, stocked with every Northface outdoor object you could ever wish to carry on your hike.

Across the street from our house is also a nice walking path around a reservoir in which every single person is decked out head to toe in GEAR. Now this path around this man built pond is not rugged by any means. They have bathrooms nicer than in our apartment, musical rocks lining the paths, outdoor gyms equipped with elliptical, hoola hoops, and a lot of foreign iron pumping machines that Kitty and Santa are bound to try out one of these days.  There are air blowers to clean the dust off your shoes and pants after your walk, a rose garden, beautiful bridges, picnic areas and a coy pond with stepping stones that lite up so you can enjoy nature at its finest and ‘most natural’ state. The park is basically a place of tranquility in a roaring city yet people are suited up in their finest gear ready to be on the next survivor if needed.

A typical person on their after dinner hike would be wearing five finger toe sports shoes, spandex leggings, a wind breaker jacket, gloves, an oversized visor decked out in sparkles, sunglasses on a necklace, a circle with a half circle coming off of it (also known as a hat), a backpackers day pack, a fanny pack, water bottles for days, walking sticks and of course all in coordinating colors!

Kitty and Santa show up for our walks every night in yoga pants and flip flops. We have a lot of catching up to do if we expect to ever fit in, or at least avoid the long awkward staring. One day Kitty and Santa will be the best looking hikers on that urban park path. We will show up on a segway for our evening walk. People will look at us in envy as we roll away into the sunset and say “LETS GET THE GEAR!!”

(for you Cal)

Gear for your naps, incase you get tired.

Differences

Language: Well all we can say is that we are learning, some things faster than others. 2 weeks into the voyage, you can find Kitty and Santa walking around town in deep meaningful Korean conversation. After learning 5 words at the bar last weekend we just cant seem to stop talking. In English our conversation would be a little like this KITTY: “hello” SANTA: “thank you” KITTY: “hi” SANTA: “crab sushi?” KITTY:”water” SANTA:”downtown” KITTY: “hello” Basically we look like crazy Westerners, but we like it and the kids in our classes don’t judge our conversation skills. KIMCHI!

Move it or lose it: Although Gwangju has a great public transportation system, and a lot of things are within walking distance for us, there are some things that manage to get in our way.  One being as simple as crossing the roads.  Apparently here people no longer have the right of way, the cars do.  This took us a while to figure out.  Kitty and Santa were dodging cars left and right our first week.  Kitty was appalled at the way people were cutting us off and then tooting their horns at us “umm I’m pretty sure pedestrians have the right of way!?! DUH.” Come to find out from our foreign teacher friends that this was in fact the opposite.  After that things started to make more sense around town.  Instead of cars slamming on their breaks for a pedestrian, we must jump off the street as a car comes flying by so we don’t lose an arm.

Walk means run:  When you see a walk sign at a street corner you don’t walk, you RUN, because if you miss that 20 second golden opportunity your screwed. With no dummy buttons in sight you’ll be sitting there waiting for another 5-10 minutes before the roaring traffic comes to a halt. Kitty and Santa picked up this trick when they noticed a couple in their 60’s trotting towards the walk sign that was blinking a block away. At first we giggled as their stride became more apparent as the numbers dwindled down from 30 seconds. When it hit 15 seconds a few middle schoolers came roaring past us. We both looked at each other and without words started sprinting to the crosswalk like we were competing in Olympic day. After getting our street smarts back we became confident enough to master the Korean bus system. Kitty and Santa were really flying around town for less than a dollar a ride. We might not be in Santa’s sleigh anymore, but it makes for one hell of a ride when the bus driver is hauling it down a small side street and people are fleeing the pavement as they see us approaching.


Appreciate your produce: Before we left for our adventure Kitty and Santa were getting into some serious juicing. Santa even made it 25 days without eating solids, fresh fruit and veggy drinks only! So when we moved we thought we could probably track down a juicer or blender and do something similar for breakfasts. Well when we got to exploring the local markets the price of produce made us realize that we will never be rich enough to eat fresh like we once did at home. Just an example, 3 individually wrapped carrots were about $1.50, half of a watermelon was $10.00, 3 small clusters of grapes was $5.00 and things that we buy in bulk like apples and pears all come individually wrapped for around $5.25 a pound. SOO for all you vegetarian, fruit loving health fanatics….don’t take your local crops for granted!

Painting the town red!

Welcome to our neck of the woods. This is the downtown area of Gwangju, about 10 minutes from our apartment. There are shops booming with techno music, tunnel malls under the road, indoor flea market type warehouses, street food, cafes, bars and every knock off store you could imagine. They have an Apple store, same layout as a normal one, same products — but everything is called Concierge instead of Apple. The shops are great though and you could probably find just about anything walking these streets.


Look at that Teenie Weenie! I’m not sure they fully understand the phrase because this logo was on just about every shirt in this hip Hollister type store.

Pretty normal day out on the town

Kids and their toys….this did not look safe.

We made some friends from our school! YAY! A couple from South Africa and a guy from London so they took us out for a night on the town. Well, night / morning – with the help of our jet lag we were able to stay out until 5 AM no problem. Professional partiers.

As we laughed over drinks with our new friends we discovered Kitty’s nickname with the kids in school is “yellow hair”. Every time they see her they go running to the classroom windows screaming “Yella haar Yella haar!!” I think the name is going to stick.

Kitty disputing where exactly South Africa is….or something along those lines haha

London

So far its been a pretty successful week 1. Excited to see what the next 51 brings….

MEEEOOOWWW

What would you do if I told you that there is a magical place where you can drink coffee in a room full of real live domestic cats ? For some (mostly  just that crazy cat lady out there) this could be a life altering moment where you may realize that South Korea is calling your name .

Well rest assure this new Korean craze is probably on its way to the USA soon. Or probably not. Kitty and Santa were venturing around downtown when we saw this sign. We were both automatically shocked and disgusted. Ew, I mean its bad enough they eat dogs but now they are eating these cute cats with their coffee?! WTF?

but then we saw this sign and thought, OK. These cats are far too fluffy and cute to be consumed. We decided to check it out, if in fact they were eating the cats we could just break in and steal them all. PETA would back us up 100% on this decision.

We walked upstairs and were greeted by a man who told us to take of our shoes and put on the cat slippers. Korean’s obviously love cats. We were then handed the “Rules” sheet. Kitty and Santa were laughing hysterically at this concept. Santa was unsure if she could follow rule number 1. Dont hug the cats too tightly but we agreed anyway with a head nod and in we went.

Well there you have it. Kitty, Santa and a room of 11 year old girls running around hugging, smelling, poking, loving….cats. Coming to a neighborhood near you! (maybe)

Call me chef

Once a week Kitty and Santa get a new schedule from the school that has their daily curriculum planed out. One thing we noticed is that because we speak English people think we know how to do just about everything including how to cook foreign foods. We walked into our classes the other day and realized it was planned for us to teach the kids how to make Sushi. HMMM. Santa walked into Kitty’s classroom conveniently located right next to her’s to discuss the matter. “Are you making sushi today?” “umm yes.” “What does that even mean?” “I have no idea.” So there we were again, plummeting into the unknown, at least were getting good at laughing at ourselves. Our co-teachers brought us the ingredients and the improve began! We used seaweed wrappers, 3 different types of sticky rice, crab, cooked ham and pickled radish. (weird combo but it was actually pretty good!)

Not too shabby for our first time! Before every snack / meal the kids do this prayer like chant together. As teachers we say “Hands together!” and everyone claps their hands together like they are going to pray and they say “Thank you mom, thank you Dad, thank you teacher for this food!  Leeeeeetttttssss Eaatttt!” Kitty claims she always has the urge to say “AAAMMMEEENNN!” after haha

jetLEG

Before the trip we talked a lot about avoiding issues with time differences. During this awesome conversation Kitty brought up the fact that she doesn’t ever get JETLEG. Well that just stopped everything right there, “Jetleg?” Santa replied. “ya, I don’t ever get that.” So this began another conversation about what exactly JETLEG was. Kitty was casual as she replied that jetleg was simply when your leg felt like jello from sitting so long on the plane. Santa took it in for a second, ya that sounds like it could be right. Well turns out kitty was dead on. We both had jetLEG and jetLAG, determining which was worse has become more and more apparent as the days goes on….

Our adorable apartment!

A few things that come with a 14 hour time change:

Stupidity: We took a long walk to this walmart meets ikea meets a 5 story shopping mall kind of store called the Lotte Mart. We went in there for just a few items, but became extremely delusional as we walked around like bugs going to the light. Kitty was getting really excited about cleaning supplies while Santa was tearing up at the pictures on the detergent box. We had past the state of exhaustion. We ended our shopping trip with a cart full of crap. As we strolled our cart to the parking lot it slowly dawned on us that we didn’t have a car. Ok, we thought, we can take a Taxi.  We approached the taxi and saw the driver speaking Korean. We realized our game of charades was probably not going to work for this one. OH and we had no idea what our address was, or how to say where we were going. So we walked, 25 minutes home with bags and bags and bags hanging off every body part, praying the entire time that they wouldn’t rip.

“What? I’m sorry sir I don’t speak English”-Santa

“Hmm, South Africa. Where is South Africa?” – Kitty

When its 4 AM and we can’t sleep because its 6 PM in Chicago we thought we could rely on some good old American sitcoms to numb the brain. WRONG AGAIN. Please feel free to write your senator about this large global issue. Watching 3 hours of TV in a language you know nothing about is both scary and addicting. Its like watching the ShamWOW infomercial at 3:30 AM and then realizing the $19.99 monthly payment sale ends in 2 minutes, sheer panic.

Long story short – Kitty purchased these stickers at home for her class here in Korea. I guess we weren’t sure what language they were going to ask us to teach. haa!

Nighty, night to all you jetlegging travelers!

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