Monday, June 28, 2010

Blog 21 - 28th June

Guest Editor: Damien

Alas, the WC is over as far as Korea is concerned but it was fun while it lasted:- watching soccer @ the outdoor cafe across the road from us, then on Saturday, on the way home we came across the 'red shirt soccer shouting plaza' which is at city hall, but they were (just) beaten, so now, who will we support?

And we have moved apartment, to a larger on in the same group (SNU Academic Apartments!).
The move was quite an operation-- with an elevator ladder to lift all our things (so much, what happened to the Zen lifestyle?) down from the 5th. floor, out the window, then back up again in the window, to the third floor.

In the window:-
The new apartment has a large window view of the adjoining forest, and is so quiet, we just sit there watching the butterflies.
So, when we return from Australia in mid-August, we hope to see lots of visitors.

On Saturday we attended the 110th. anniversary of the foundation of the Korea branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, held in the garden of the United States ambassador's residence.
The celebration included a recital of some modern compositions using Korean traditional instruments.

Beautiful residence in traditional (rich persons) architectural style.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blog 20 - 21st June

Soccer is huge here and across the road in the Hoam House outdoor coffee shop everyone gathered during the week to see Korea beaten by Argentina. The warm evenings and atmosphere are wonderful, both relaxed and exciting at the same time.

I'm a member of two book groups here. This one is mainly Korean women and we read English nonfiction. I can't ever imagine reading a book in Korean and continue to admire the locals who are so adept at English. Last time we began on the apartment roof to discuss Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart about an Englishman settling in Andalusia, Spain. We then went below to Jo's mother's apartment for a feast. Jo is the one with the scarf around her neck and glasses. This is the routine every time! How lucky am I?

Here is my other book group of expats organised through the Seoul International Women's Association (SIWA). We have just finished Letter from Peking by Pearl S Buck - not recommended as it was a bit dated.

We caught the train to Gumi ( 2 hours south of Seoul) to visit Damien's swimming club mate, Hong Seoung Eun and his family, Kim Yong Suk and son David. Damien had attended their wedding in 2003 and had not seen them since. Hong proudly took us to lunch where 39 side dishes served, every one delicious and different. Such fun hanging out for a Saturday with a Korean family.

Of course a trip to Gumi is not complete without a visit to the local temple. This one is called Jikjisa and has a temple stay associated with it. Temple stays are very popular here. The only problem is getting up at 4.00am for meditation! The feeling was so relaxing and gardens were beautiful and green. Here is the website if you are interested when you visit.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blog 19 - 13th June

What a wonderful weekend we spent at Tong Yeong with Lee Hyun Sub, our English teacher friend who stayed in Adelaide for a year in 2004. Here are Damien and Lee having a snooze on pebble beach at Goeje Island. To get our feet wet and see the cleanliness of the cool water was such fun and so refreshing after the city crowds of Seoul.

Lee's sister and mother cooked a fantastic meal for us - this photo is only half of his family - his second sister and family arrived later. Nobody spoke any English so another opportunity to practice our kindergarten Korean!

The fresh fish tanks had seawater pumped in and we chose what we wanted. We could then check that it was properly cleaned!

What a feast of mussels, oysters, prawns and other seafood that was hardly recognizable however yummy. To be by the ocean and taste the salt water was incredible indeed. The woman in this picture is peeling garlic that is grown locally. Her green basket is upturned in the background spilling garlic onto the ground.

Multimillion dollar shipbuilding business is the mainstay of working life in Tong Yeong.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blog 18 - 7th June

We've just spent 5 days in China - first at Suzhou, for the IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) conference. Suzhou is an old canal city with 47 kilometres of waterways, the original silk industry and some great gardens. There were 2,800 delegates - 2,000 Chinese and 800 from overseas. Damien's was one of 180 papers submitted, however those presenting were mainly Chinese. I had a wonderful time as the only person who had signed up for the accompanying person's trip so had my own personalised tour guides for 2 days. Guess who had more fun? Above is the old market town, below some typical scenes of Suzhou. If you'd like to know more here is a link.

My favourite garden was the newly opened Jiangsu Lake which was beautiful in the rain. We were amused by the bevvy of attendants photographing this bride in the cold while the groom was ignored and looking decidedly bored alongside. Over 60 classical gardens are well preserved and 9 of them are listed in the Catalog of World Cultural Heritage. They have very amusing names such as the Humble Administrator's Garden, the Lingering Garden , Mountain Villa of Embracing Beauty, Surging Wave Pavilion, Garden of Couple's Retreat and the Garden of Retreat and Reflection.

The conference was held at the Central Hotel where we stayed. We were convinced that this was Charmain Mao's number one public grand communal guest house for government officials. There were similar banners all over the city welcoming international IFLA delegates.

One thing we kept noticing was people smoking everywhere, even when this man was selling me custard apples and lychees (yum!) and demonstrating how he weighed them to find out the price. Somehow I was not convinced by his ancient technology ,however his face was too sweet to resist!

The Chinese silk industry originated in Suzhou 2,500 years ago. It felt a bit like a school excursion seeing the process from silk worms and larvae to the finished product.

One of the many translation amusements!

The Astor House Hotel is the oldest hotel in Shanghai dating from 1846 and is famous for its guest list including Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and Charlie Chaplin. Edgar Snow who wrote Red Star Over China and stayed in our room 303 in 1931. How could we not burst out laughing when we saw the Chinese staff in kilts? Here is the link if you are planning to go to Expo. There is a free shuttle us from the hotel.

Below is the view from our hotel across the Yangtze river. Amazing!