October 30, 2010

DMZ in Seoul

Last weekend I went to Seoul for the first time. Corinne and I were going primarily to see the DMZ, or Demilitarized Zone. You must be on a tour to see it, so we got up at 6 am and got a bus. It was quite the experience.

This year marks the 60 year anniversary of the end of the Korean War, and so there were a lot of events around the area - a concert set up, some sort of march with people with little numbers pinned to their chest, and this carnival.

This is one of the trains that traveled through the DMZ to connect North and South, it is no longer in use (though there is now a modern train, you'll see the station at the end of this post)

I found this very interesting, it is in the only place I have seen so far where the US and Korean flags were not posted right next to each other.

Corinne inspires me to eat street food, this is spicy chicken (maybe?) on a stick.

These are bridges, which were used to exchange POWs between the North and South. The one that is on the left in the picture is called the "Bridge to Freedom," and the one on the right is falling apart, and is no longer used.

You can walk partway up the "Bridge of Freedom." The ribbons are hooked up to the fences and were beautiful. I just wish I could read Korean so that I could tell what they said.

Corinne took these two. We went to an observatory where you could see the North Korean Propaganda Village.

You couldn't take pictures right up at the viewfinders, so this is the best picture I could get. The village has the world's highest flagpole. There are giant speakers that play propaganda recordings, but I didn't hear any.

North Korean forces have dug four tunnels under the DMZ towards Seoul, and the third one is open for tourists to walk down it. We walked down until we were about 120 m from the Military Demarcation Line (Armistice Line), which is the actual border between North and South.

You cannot take pictures in the tunnel, which I think is mostly for security reasons. This is a picture of a picture from when they discovered the tunnel, to give you an idea of the size. They told us that 30,000 troops plus artillery could travel through this tunnel each hour.

This is the new train station to North Korea.

Really, it looks a lot like every other train station I've been to in Korea.

Overall, I would recommend anyone going to Korea to take the time to see it. It really was enlightening to see all of the things you study about in person. Pictures cannot do something like the DMZ justice. As for Seoul, it was really overwhelming. I knew it was the fourth biggest city in the world, but I have gotten so used to Daegu, where you can get around on the subway easily, people don't walk smack into you, and generally you can walk next to your friends.. Seoul was a bit of a shock. I left feeling glad to be heading home, and really think I made the right decision choosing to live in Daegu. I'll be heading back to Seoul maybe next month, they have a ton of cultural sites and museums, temples and palaces.

My cat's really weird. This is how Trenton likes to relax. Her front legs are sprawled out on each side of my leg. She also sleeps on top of me - I lay on my side and she likes to lay down on my waist or thighs. This is problematic because I move around a lot in my sleep, so she gets mad and meows until I wake up. But, she is cute and sweet and I am happy to have her.

Most of the family probably already knows, but if you haven't heard, Tricia (my sister) has a blog about her experiences in China. The website is http://triciareneem.wordpress.com/

I took lots of cute pictures of the kindergarten students dressed up for our Halloween party, so expect that post to be up soon!

October 25, 2010

Daegu's Photo Biennale

Daegu's Photo Biennale was held this month, which is basically a huge photography exhibit. I ended up going twice, as it was a big exhibit and I wanted to spend some more time with the photos. Part of this was because of an exhibit called "Speaking Out Peace." This was featured as it is the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. It had one room of Robert Capa's war photography, including the Korean War, and another of various Korean War photographers. The name Robert Capa is probably familiar, he is famous for the quote "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough" (refering to war photography) and being one of the only photographers at D-day (Omaha Beach in Normandy, France).

If you were wondering, the photo above was taken in Daegu before they changed the spelling. (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them, just click the "back" button when you want to return to the blog)

This is an American soldier being carried by the South Korean peasants that were used as artillery carriers during the war.

North Korean POWs

Military trials for the POW's

This is an American soldier accepting surrendered North Korean citizens. Look closely, you can see the soldier giving him a thumbs up.

This is a line of POW's walking on a landing strip.

This is one of my absolute favorites of the collection.

This was taken in Daegu, these are all of the taxi drivers celebrating after a victory.

This is Robert Capa's last photograph - he died shortly after taking it, because he stepped on a landmine in Vietnam.

The whole thing really was amazing. There were tons of other photographs that were not related to the war at all, but I decided not to post any because it really didn't touch me as much as these did. I don't want to distract you from the main attraction here, which is my cultural and historical education. Expect another post very soon about my trip to Seoul and the DMZ this past weekend!

To see more photos of the exhibit (with the names of all of the photographers), and of the Busan War Memorial (that I went to last month) click here to go to my Flickr page.

October 17, 2010

Daegu International Opera Festival

I love Daegu. This month it has been the Daegu International Opera Festival and I have been to three performances. The tickets are very affordable, the productions are brilliant, and it has been a wonderful week.

First was a Midsummer Night's Dream with my friend Jose. I'd seen Tricia's performances of it throughout my childhood and had wanted to see it done as a ballet. I finally got the chance. It was done by the Karlsruche National Theater in Germany, and they were marvelous. I had been to a professional ballet before, but the costumes and set design really made this experience unique.

Two days later, I went to a traditional Korean opera with Corinne. This is a story about a man who fought against Japanese occupation and is very celebrated in Korean history. It is a very solemn, respectful performance, but I found it historically flawed. For instance, Simsan and his fellow scholars wondered at one point if they should do something to assist China in her fight against the Japanese, and "Chinese" men came onto stage dancing and proclaiming that "China is big, China will be okay." Of course, China was devastated by Japanese invasion. Furthermore, when the Korean resistance was meeting and Japanese soldiers came to disband them, they told Simsan that Korean men were admirable and brave, and let them continue plotting to overthrow Japan. It seemed more of a propaganda piece - like watching a stereotypical depiction of America's Thanksgiving story. I loved the costumes, music, and vocal performance, but the story wasn't something I took too seriously.

Lastly, Corinne and I saw The Barber of Seville this weekend. This was mind-blowing. The actors were from all over Asia (a Pan-Asian collaboration), while the chorus and orchestra were from Daegu. The costumes were really true to their European, era-appropriate style, and the set design was beautifully done. The story-line was amusing and playful, and was choreographed wonderfully. I actually remember my camera and got a picture with the "Count" after the performance, so you could see one of the costumes closer up.

The performances were all opera-novice and foreigner friendly - all of the venues had screens up with scrolling text in Korean and English and the programs had a synopsis for each Act. I am often pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming Korea is for native English speakers, and this festival was not an exception. This month the Phantom of the Opera is coming to Daegu, and I will be attending. I can't wait.

October 16, 2010

Saint Louis in October

Because we are having a big Halloween party and won't have classes the whole day, we are not going on a field trip this month. So, I decided to take some pictures of things that make me really happy around St. Louis. A lot of teachers are doing Halloween crafts, this is in the front entrance of the school - the one on the right is my favorite because of its bloody teeth.

This is a picture of an art project I had a class do this week. Rachael, my co-worker whose wedding was my last entry - is gone this week, so I taught three of her classes, including out youngest students that I do not teach regularly. They are adorable. Its like trying to get a basket of puppies to learn tricks, they are so cute and excitable. They really just wanted to play with my hair and play eye-spy the whole time.

I taught the same students a brainstorming class, where we talked about our friends and drew pictures of them. One of the students, Ally, told me to keep this. I wish I had brought my camera, because another student, Matthew, drew a picture of him and I. He had my clothing the exact right colors, and my hair was sticking straight back. I asked if it was windy that day, and he said, "No, its when I do this" and grabbed my hair and held it out straight. Pretty hilarious.

These I have had on my desk for a month or so. The one on the left is pictures made out of fingerprints, a berry and a monkey. Mimi is my director's daughter, I teach her class, but she likes to hang out in the staff room, and I give her things to play or draw with occasionally. Julie was my science student, but was moved to a class I don't teach. She is artistically talented, incredibly sweet, and very smart. I was sad to see her go.

I have awesome students. These are the girls in my A-Special class. Meaning, they are the highest level and oldest students we have at St. Louis. I teach them science, and they are brilliant. The one on the right is Lisa, my director's oldest daughter, I also teach a private conversation class with her. She wants to travel all over the world; I like her a lot.

I teach one class with two girls and six boys. They are a handful, but I really enjoy it. One of my students always incorporates his extensive studying. It breaks my heart, because he isn't one of the strongest students, but he always tries his best and has a positive attitude.

One of my last classes is three girls, two who are sisters (the girls on the sides). They are goofy and talkative, but sweet and hardworking.

I've grown to appreciate my students varying intelligences. Some struggle to articulate definitions verbally, but can express it perfectly in a picture, others may not be able to write perfectly, but can tell me everything about animals or cars. I thought it would be difficult to teach classes with varying intelligences and learning styles, but really it makes it more interesting. Its challenging, but thats what makes me feel like a worthwhile teacher. I feel like I can do my best to connect to students and try to give them more than just book learning. Teaching is not something I fantasized about doing my entire childhood, like some people did. But, I feel like this position fits well with my life and my long term goals. I want to learn as much as I can while I am here, become the best communicator I can, learn to appreciate and work with every style of intelligence, learn to adapt and be flexible, which is very necessary in this field!

October 9, 2010

Dr. Fish

Dr. Fish is an interesting experience. You put your feet in a shallow pool of water and garra rufa fish - which nibble on the dead skin. Its fairly popular in Korea- they are big on skin treatments and exfoliation in general. So I had to try it out, and ended up going with Corinne this week. It reminded me of when we would put cheese between our toes and feed the fish, back when Dad had his boat. Only there were a lot more fish, and they actually chewed on your foot, not cheese.

Corinne took me, and had been before. She likes it and is less ticklish than I am.

This is me trying to be a good sport - holding my hands over my mouth so I don't yell and laying down so I can't see the fish. I tried hard, but was not a trooper. I wouldn't go back, but am glad I tried it out once. I think I will be just fine with scrubs at the jjimjilbang, or public bath, and a pumice stone, thank you very much!

October 3, 2010

Gyeong Ju Round Two

If you remember the entry about Gyeong Ju from a month ago, you will probably remember how beautiful it is. I have been wanting to go, and this weekend I finally did. My friend Jose and I went to Bulguk-sa Temple and Seokguram Grotto.

You've probably noticed that I love the temple protectors. I think they are intricate and amazing, but especially love how each temple's are different. This little girl did a full bow, and it was the cutest thing in the world.

Bulguk-sa has seven of the National Treasures in Korea and is considered the capstone of the golden era of Buddhism in the Silla Empire. It has two golden Buddhas (not pictured, as they didn't allow cameras there).

There are two "bridges," this is one. Both are considered National Treasures.

This is a giant drum set on a huge turtle.

Two more National Treasures are the stone pagodas. Seokgotap is on the left, and is rather simple. It was constructed with a 4:3:2 ratio. The intricate top pillar with lotus flowers was added in 1973 to match Dabotap which is on the right, and is much more complex. This style was seldom featured outside of Korea. This pagoda is also featured on the 100 won coin (similar to a dime).

I am amazed by traditional Korean roofs. I really hope this picture enlarges when you click on it, because the layering of the roofs is beautiful.

Both places we went to were an UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are about 900 in the world, and 10 in Korea.

This is the view from the Grotto: it is beautiful.

There was a huge bell with a sign that said "1000won, ring for mercy." I didn't ring it.

The fields you can see are for step farming, which is pretty common in Korea, but hasn't ceased to impress me. I'm hoping to go to the Green Tea Fields in the spring and see the step farms all the way up the mountain.

There were no pictures allowed inside the temple within the Grotto, so I found this one online. It does not do the Buddha justice. It is entirely granite and is 3.5 meters high. When it was constructed it, there were only mountain paths to the Grotto. There are granite wall panels that are intricately constructed as well, including 12 protectors that I was sorely tempted to photograph! Buddha is sitting a position that is supposed to be him at the moment of enlightenment.

This is the roof of the temple building housing the granite Buddha.

Jose at the highest temple in the Grotto. He was nice enough to get me on base and let me buy extra sheets, towels, silverware, and bathroom stuff at American standards and prices. Also, there is a taco bell on base. Needless to say, it was a wonderful weekend.