Monday, April 25, 2011

Bag 'Em and Tag 'Em, Pt. 8

The following account details experiences that, though due in no part at all to my own efforts, I believe to be possible only in the country I am currently in.

(1) Seoul National Cemetery

Do not ask why, but long ago Dawna and I talked about how we both wanted to go walk around this large cemetery, some of which was visible from the subway and/or Dongjak Station on Line 4. A few weeks ago, on an appropriately cloudy day, we ventured through the Seoul National Cemetery in Dongjak, just south of the Han River.

This cemetery is pretty large and pretty reserved for Korean military veterans. We walked up past the large grassy entrance to the graveyard and headed up through the acres and acres of burial plots in respectful silence. We reached a vantage point and sat there for a while before continuing on, upward and further back into the most obscure areas, where a variety of different memorials for different movements and revolutionaries were located.

Eventually we roamed back up near the entrance and walked through a museum of old war relics, and then as we were about to leave, we noticed an unusually copious gathering of folks - at least, copious for a cemetery - congregating in the aforementioned large grassy entrance area. We watched a traditional Korean dance performance, which was the reason for the copious congregation of folks, and then a bunch of military folks throw and shoot (not at the same time) their guns in the air.

I don't know what we expected by going here, but I am glad we went. What I could appreciate was the respect shown to the late veterans by the intricate organization, thoughtful architecture, and vast expanse of land dedicated to the aforementioned. It was a solemn time, but it wasn't uncomfortable or sad. And we kept it real.

(2) Seoul Grand Park Zoo

Another item that had been often discussed by Dawna and I, the Seoul Grand Park Zoo, is located - surprisingly - at the Seoul Grand Park subway stop on Line 4. There is a giant science museum there - we think - and sort of a circuit one could take throughout the park. Along said circuit lie a contemporary art museum, a theme park, and the zoo. Jordan and I went to the art museum once; it was okay. Your mom and I ventured through the the theme park once; it was not fun (though it may have been without your mom). And on a day a few before Dawna's exit from South Korea, she and I attacked the zoo with an unheard amount of vigor, some snacks, and a camera.

We were there for the better part of four hours. There is not that much to say about this except that, as you may easily have guessed, we saw a million animals. The variety of animals that the zoo has is quite impressive. We saw alligators, baboons, black bears, brown bears, camels, chimpanzees, Texas longhorns, dead chicken carcasses, creatures from the Black Lagoon, donkeys, elephants, falcons, foxes, gazelles, giraffes, gorillas, hippopotamuses, signs for jackass penguins (sorry, Stina), kangaroos, lemurs, leopards, dead lions, mountain goats, ostriches, peacocks, polar bears, raccoons, rhinoceroses, seals, skunks (I know, I know...), snakes, tigers, turtles, water buffaloes, and zebras.

When we saw all the animals that we had wanted to see, we went home. It was fun. Lastly, this is the best picture that I took there. And know that I took like two hundred pictures. I don't know how dangerous this guy was, but there was definitely a hole in his cage big enough for a human hand holding a camera to fit through:

(3) Seoul Scavenger Hunt

One fair afternoon (to be precise, the afternoon of the day we went to the zoo) a number of foreigners (to be precise, eleven of us) gathered together to conduct an obnoxious, large-scale scavenger hunt (to be precise, click here for the detailed list of what got hunted) around the city of Seoul. Briefly, off the top of my head, the players involved were: Holly, Kara, Lauren, and Jennifer (Team Beondegi), Elyse, Ben, and Ashley (Team Perpect [sic]), and Dawna, Miss Elie, Heidi, and I (Team Destruction).

The key to this is to read the aforementioned list at your leisure and then imagine trying to take as many of these pictures as humanly possible in a 2.5-hour period with a language barrier present. After researching (read: looking at pictures on Facebook) a little bit, I realized without too much trouble that one of the teams got absolutely insane during this scavenger hunt. The pics from the other two teams pale in comparison. I mean, I had fun with my team, don't get me wrong, but:

Here are some pictures from the hunt I stole without asking anyone. They are all from that one particular team. I am grateful that (a) the owners of these photos do not read my blog (most of them are illiterate, anyway) and do not know about this thievery (c) pictures are worth a thousand words, which saves me a lot of time (g) these funny pictures exist and are on the internet.

(4) Sunrise on Namsan

If you haven't noticed the Dawna theme in this post, notice it now. The week before she left, we got up at the butt crack of dawn - on a Wednesday...not ideal - for an adventure of calmness. I set my alarm for 4:45 a.m., which I think is the earliest I have gotten up since moving here. Anyway Dawna and I met at Woori Bank at 5, walked to Namsan Park, and traversed the stairs up to the top of the mountain. The agenda: watch the sun rise.

It was pretty hazy; we agreed that it was just smog and that that was normal. There were trees blocking every clear vantage point to the east, but we sat on this wall and watched through the naked limbs. Many old folks were up at the peak as well, exercising and what have you. We brought a breakfast of pastries, juice, oranges, and soju. And it was a cool time. Here are some pictures:

Though a brief trip, it was a worthwhile one. I would recommend it if you are unemployed, because I still had to go teach the rest of the day. But, as can probably be judged from those photos, the view from the top of Namsan in the early morning is pretty dang sweet. Land of the morning calm indeed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Season of Loss

Here is a fitting follow-up post to the last cheerful one, the one about a ballin' spring weekend, on this blog.

Despite the fact that wonderful weather and pleasant sunshine has arrived in Seoul and the mood should be happy and upbeat, there is still a cloud, a stormy dark one, hanging around as of late. I attribute it to such things as (a) Pete and Kelly leaving, which isn't anything particularly new, but let's be honest: when someone leaves, you feel the immediate feelings of sadness, but you also feel his or her or their absence later on, when you engage in activities that you experienced with him or her or them previously. Like spring in Seoul! (b) Dawna leaving, which is something particularly new, so let's be honest: not only is an awesome friend gone, but the glue that held a lot of people together is also absent. The ease with which many of us found ourselves coming together is no longer there. No one has stepped up to organize big singing parties or large photographic expenditures. (c) Megan "Ching, Chong: It Means I Love You; Ling, Long: I Really Want You; Ting, Tong: I Don't Actually Know What That Means" Schwartz is leaving next Wednesday...again! She left once before but came back. Now Megan's departure is for good. She is the oldest friend I have who is still in Korea. And I don't mean that she is 159 years old and is thus older than any other friend I have here; I mean I have known her for the longest time. Dang. (d) In the past three weeks I have effectively and intentionally ended any chance at having any sort of romantic relationship with two different people (women) here. (e) Various students from various classes of mine have also left the school this semester. Not that recently, but again, their absences are continually felt. Big Daddy Ahn! Eric Lee! Lois! Hannah! Sigh. (f) The Minnesota Twins suck right now. The talent with which they should be playing is not be exercised. C'mon, guys. 8-12? Last place? (g) Even my couch surfing friend Felix, who was living in Beijing, got booted from China for not being able to come through on his visa. Back to Germany he has gone.

This too shall pass. I think instead of letting this post linger as the most recent one for quite a while, I will write something very positive very soon. Yes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Speak of the Sun and It Shines

Spring is here. It's all over everywhere. It revealed itself undeniably to me last weekend in bright, happy fashion. Before reading this post, please play this song and/or this song while your eyes scan the following words.

Friday after school I took a nap, which is a perfect way to start any weekend. I woke up and headed to Dongjak, where I met up with a dangerous woman named Elyse for coffee. The place we went sits atop a bridge on the Han River, which overlooks Seoul at night. Lovin' it. A calm, relaxing evening it was.

Saturday I left my apartment equipped with a coat and long johns on, but by the time I got to my classroom to grab a book on my way to Oksu-dong, I decided to abandon both of those items in lieu of the gorgeous sunshine that leered down upon Seoul. I took some buses and a subway train to this large hill called Eungbongsan. I have no clue what the word means.

I had seen this hill many times in various rides past on earlier in my life and had always wanted to explore the ol' place, like I used to get to do every Saturday before people and meetings and hanging out and socializing and school obligations and meeting with pirate smugglers from Taipei invaded my life. I trekked from the subway all the way over to and up it. The view was better than I had hoped for, to be honest. I stayed up there and did very little for quite a while.

When I decided to descend, I was contacted about a baseball game that was to occur at 5 p.m. on that very Saturday afternoon. I confirmed that I could go purchase tickets for seven people and promptly left to do so. I arrived at the baseball stadium in Jamsil at 1:45 p.m., perhaps forty people from the front of the line. At 3 p.m. tickets went on sale. At 3:25 p.m., when I was the next person in line to pay, every ticket window shut, including the one at which the woman in front of me was negotiating. Signs went up; the game was sold out. I was not happy.

I comforted myself with a Burger King meal out of a bag but still felt completely and utterly incompetent for failing to obtaining the seven tickets. I don't know what else I could have done short of buying tickets from the hordes of old dudes selling them for four times their face value. Blegh. So I went home and comforted myself further with another nap.

The night was not done, of course. No. I rose at 8 p.m., showered, and headed to Gangnam for an hour of noraebang with Holly, her visiting boyfriend Tony, Heidi from Bethel, Lauren the Cardinals fan, and Ben, who showed up later. Many songs were sung, and they were sung quite well, but all the fun ended when "Bawitdaba" was performed. Chicks with beepers. Fifths of stress. Caps of meth.

A good day Saturday was, but it was to bettered by Sunday. I got up feeling like a million bucks and headed swiftly to Yeouido to experience all that is good about Seoul in April: the cherry blossoms. I met the aforementioned dangerous woman named Elyse there and we plowed through the crowds by the river to where there was nothing but a pink and white blanket above us. Pretty sweet. Very right for the time of year.

After a while we parted ways and I headed for Jamsil for another attempt at a ball game. I arrived there and received the last call I'd ever get on the phone that had lasted me the longest during my time here. The call was from Holly to confirm that she and her visiting boyfriend Tony were coming. I met up with the purchasers of today's tickets, Anna and Duncan, and we went in and located our nosebleed chairs.

The game squared the LG Twins against the Lotte Giants. Only the three of us were present to cheer the Twins on during the first couple innings, but eventually Holly, her visiting boyfriend Tony, a woman I whom I don't think I met, and Ben all arrived as well, though not without incident. Holly's phone and my phone died, and no one else had Ben's number, so he had to wait outside the stadium for an hour until we realized the problem. We're crappy people.

The Twins lost the game 4-1, but it was a solid time. It was warm until the sun went down, at which point it was freezing. We cheered hard. We ate like crazed hyenas. We laughed at people nearby us. What more could a group of foreigners ask for during a home team loss?

I returned home feeling exhausted but quite good about life. I can only hope that other weekends are full of as much sunny enjoyment, pleasant company, and satisfying activities.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh, Dawna

Before reading this post, please open this video and listen to the melodies and harmonies of that West Coast punk band Mxpx as they also join us in mourning the loss of a dear friend.

Oh, Dawna
Oh, Dawna
Oh, Dawna
Oh, Dawna

I had a girl
And Dawna was her name
Since she left me
I've never been the same
Cause I love my girl
Dawna, oh, where can you be?
Where can you be?

Now that you're gone
I'm left all alone
All by myself
To wander and roam
Cause I love my girl
Dawna, oh, where can you be?

Darlin', now that you're gone
I don't know, what I'll do
All the time, and all my love for you-o-o

Oh, Dawna
Oh, Dawna
Oh, Dawna
Oh, Dawna

I had a girl
And Dawna was her name
Since she left me
I've never been the same
Cause I love my girl
Donna, oh, where can you be?
Where can you be?


Dawna Diamon, ladies and gentlemen, is first and foremost: an awesome friend.

Dawna is also a wild and dangerous dancer.

Dawna is a skier.

Dawna is a creator of extreme scavenger hunts.

Dawna is a 외국 선생님.

Dawna is a worship leader.

Dawna is a trooper.

Dawna is a smack talker.

Dawna is a wicked Frisbee tosser, and a wicked Frisbee catcher.

Dawna is a role model.

Dawna is an affirm-er.

Dawna is a proud owner of an awesome faith.

Dawna is the proprietor of the city of Suwon, South Korea.

Dawna is an explorer.

Dawna is a person who could relate to anyone.

Dawna is an active individual.

Dawna is an avid user of the word "kids."

Dawna is an excellent baker of cookies and puppy chow and other culinary delicacies.

Dawna is a great sharer, a selfless woman.

Dawna is a creative and fearless photographer.

Dawna is a bringer of the pain.

Dawna is an understander.

Dawna is a rapper.

Dawna is a hater of idleness.

Dawna is a spectacular host.

Dawna is a considerate guest.

Dawna is the happy recipient of the occasional yogurt from random Korean men on the subway.

Dawna is a proud supporter of 김밥천국.

Dawna is the glue that holds a lot of people together.

Dawna is a lover of Jesus.

Dawna is a reader.

Dawna is a people person.

Dawna is an athlete to be reckoned with.

Dawna is a frequent employer of the peace sign in pictures.

Dawna is a traveler.

Dawna is a lady who didn't know what the word "fear" meant.

Dawna is an organizer.

Dawna is a leader.

Dawna is a climber of Namsan at 5 a.m.

And...Dawna is an awesome friend.

But, now,

Dawna is gone.