Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blog 17 - 25 May

Tonight is the first time I've been home alone for over two weeks - but then who's counting? We've really loved having our first visitors and this blog will feature our Canberra friend and past blog editor, Ronis.

We were invited to the third Arab Cultural Festival in Seoul where we saw the Lebanese Molayya Folk Dance group perform at the National Theatre. Here the Lebanese Ambassador and his wife hold the flag with the famous cedar of Lebanon.

After the show we ate traditional Korean BBQ with our international delegation including Italian, Korean, American and Irish and Lebanese Australian.

I was later invited to afternoon tea with the wife of the Ambassador of Lebanon, Majida Mostapha by my friend Hyon O'Brien, who is a retired librarian and writes a column for the Korean Times. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2010/05/137_65896.html

Can you see the minooshi, ftoya and Lebanese coffee? What a treat after almost 4 months with no Lebanese food.
Check out the cedar of Lebanon cups and plates and the handmade chocolates with the initials of Majida's daughter, Marina and husband. Four hundred were made for each guest at Marina's recent wedding in Beirut ! interestingly there are two Lebanese in Korea - the Ambassador and his wife! The post is maintained here due to strategic diplomatic and trade relationships.

Ronis broke our favourite vase so we sent her off the the Seoul History Museum to fix it. Here she is mending the ancient treasure in the 'hands on' children's section with the assistance of her friend from Melbourne, Trish, who we also stayed with us for a few days.

Our visit to the Quakers in Daejon (a city of 1.5 million 150 kms south of Seoul) was wonderful thanks to the generous hosting of Chonyon Kim and Jong Hee Lee. Thank you both for the food, hospitality and welcoming We spent lots of time on the floor in traditional Korean style and ate, slept and had Friends meeting on the floor. The Quaker meeting was wonderful and had a record number of people (about 25) followed by chatting and more food! Trish's daughter, Erin and her boyfriend Dong Kyon met us there - great reunion.

Sitting in silence on the floor for an hour was quite an ordeal for us foreigners! Ronis spoke about some Australian peace projects and Joon translated.

Damien is presenting at a conference in Sozhou near Shanghai so we're going to China for 5 days. No blog next week, however stay posted for some photos of this ancient garden city.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blog 16 - 17th May

This week has seen more entertaining as Damien's sisters left and our dear Canberra friend Ronis arrived. Thoughtfully they all planned their schedules so we overlapped at Incheon Airport on Friday evening. As the one way trip takes 2 hours we really appreciated this excellent planning. Ronis has volunteered to be the guest editor this week. Highlights of the week include a new cooking class at O'ngo Food Communications Cooing Studio www.ongofood.com which will be a definite for future itineraries. Also we are all getting ready for Buddha's birthday on 21st May. So now it's over to Ronis....

How wonderful it is to share Seoul with Susan and Damien. In a short while they have become very comfortable with this huge city and the many many people who live here. They have made their apartment a friendly and welcoming space. The summer cafe has just opened over the road and their are vegetables growing on the veranda. The nearby walks are so different to the Torrens River Park walks but such a delight. There is a park over the road that has people playing and riding bikes and sitting and exercising and chatting and eating all times of day - a fantastic use of open space.
So first some pictures of the sisters' visit.

Thanks to Dan and Jia owners of this business, pictured above, we were taken on a guided market tour first and then cooking in brand new premises. We had a choice of menus and Sean the chef taught us Haemul phajun (seafood pancake) tofu and kimchi and Sangchoo gutjhulee (salted lettuce salad). We invited Janet Tseng to accompany us before her return to Ottawa. Janet's Chinese Hong Kong background was a wonderful help in interpreting different things.

And now the beginning of the lantern festival - this year we celebrate the 2554 birth of Buddha.
Susan and Damien ran off and left me for a couple of days so I continued to celebrate the lantern festival....

and then went exploring other places.

How special to visit the House of Sharing - I am now committed to telling their story. The museum they have created is very moving and we were blessed to meet 4 of the halmoni residents. Halmoni are women who were forced into sexual slavery during WWII under Japanese military rule. Here I am pictured with my friend Trish with some of the women telling their stories of hope and survival.

And the best book is the book shop cafe that a friend of mine runs. Great coffee and conversation and I am sure the selection of Korean books is a fine one.

Here is Ronis and Damien eating bulgolgi in Insa Dong. Miraculously Susan who is not renowned for her great sense of direction has been able to find two restaurants that she had been to before.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blog 15 - 10th May

Our first visitors arrived this week - Anne Maree and Jacinta, Damien's sisters from Warnambool, Australia. They tested our new second hand beds (thanks to Sheung Hee and Im Seung Bin). Here they are having fun in the water fountain in Gwanghwamun today in the 25 degree sunshine.

For lunch we had a feast of mandoo (dumplings) in a side street near the Seoul Folk Museum that Suzanne Han showed me. Home made noodles and dumplings were the specialty - yummy!

We also were served a delicious mushroom hot pot - there are hundreds of varieties of mushrooms here.
Anne Maree is practicing using chopsticks in preparation for her visit to her son, Peter next week, who is Assistant Manager at the Hyatt in Beijing .

Damien and I enjoyed a free evening in a deluxe room with yummy breakfast at the new Marriott Hotel in Times Square complex thanks to Simon Bell, the Queenslander who is General Manager. Here people line up to browse in luxury item shops. Here the young doorman is coming to tell us photos are not allowed. Crossed arms is the Korean way of saying 'no' or 'don't have'.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blog 14 -3 May

We returned to Jeonju ( 3 hours south of Seoul) for an International Faculty weekend away with 24 university professors and families. It was great to connect with people from Lebanon, India, Vietnam, Germany, the US, Russia, China and Timor Leste. The event was organised by the University and meant we did not have to think about where to go, what to do, what to eat, where to stay or how to translate anything! While I'm not a fan of organised tours it was very relaxing.

We were provided with a bag of goodies including gorgeous yellow hats to identify us all and were happy to play follow the leader for a while. We slept on the floor in traditional housing (hanok) which is photographed in the background above and were exposed to Korean customs and culture all weekend. Good to have cheese on toast when we got home!

Meals in Korea are often eaten sitting on the floor with shoes removed and left at the door. Typical meals consist of many smaller dishes and a few main dishes. The empty hotplates are waiting for some sizzling chilly octopus.

It was so good to get out into the countryside we woke at 6.00am and walked along the river. Hooray! There were no people about. The fish ladder on the left helps fish swim upstream.

This peace and quiet was short lived however as we spotted a crowd on the opposite side of the river. It was an early morning market selling everything from a variety of spinach and greens, to strawberries and ginseng.

These women are selling bags of dried chillies.

This old lady asked me to take her photo with her daughter. Below is the couple who looked after us at the hanok. Here is the website.